If you want to get technical about it, apple season officially started back on September 1st. But if you’re anything like us—feeling just a smidge of denial that summer is over—it’s possible that typical fall activities like apple picking haven’t been exactly top of mind.

Turns out, we may be rewarded for our procrastination—according to author and apple expert Dan Bussey, the best apples are those that actually ripen later, around October through December.

So, as the calendar inches ever deeper into autumn, maybe now is the time to visit one of the many family-owned apple orchards near New York City! But don’t book your trip before you read these five things:

  1. Above Average: Despite a challenging growing year (think frost, hail, and drought, to name a few), New York growers are on track to pick some 30 million bushels of apples this year, slightly above the states average crop of 28.6 million. New York is the largest apple-producer east of the Mississippi, and second only to Washington state nationally.
  2. Smaller but Sweeter: About that aforementioned drought—the lack of water, while stressful for trees, made this year’s apples crunchier and sweeter. With less water content, the concentration of sugar in each fruit is higher, even though they may be a bit more petite. Sounds good to us!
  3. Hard to Pick Just One: New York grows more apple varieties than any other state, and that includes classics like McIntosh, Empire, and Red Delicious, as well as new favorites like Honeycrisp and Ginger Gold. Some types aren’t even available in stores, only at roadside stands or orchards.
  4. A Family Affair: There are nearly 700 commercial apple growers in New York State, and many of them are family-owned businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation. When you support those growers, you’re supporting farm families and keeping jobs here in New York State…not to mention keeping some 55,000 acres in farmland.
  5. Go Beyond: In addition to fresh apples, New York State is also home to 22 cideries, so you can grab a bottle with your bushel. And, don’t forget, New York City Cider Week is coming October 21-30! And do we even need to mention apple cider donuts?

Now that you’re in the know, check out this list of the best apple orchards near New York City—go forth and pick!

Freshly picked apples. Photo credit: Shinya Suzuki/Creative Commons