Area apple orchards rebound big time from last year
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Last year, local apple orchards were decimated by drought and unusual spring weather that saw blooms killed by frost. Many u-pick orchards had to close early once they ran out of stock, while some such as Woodstock's More Than Delicious Orchard and Lang's Orchard didn't have any crop at all.
But after a year of rest, the trees are filled with fruit ready for your family to pick.
"Last year, we had no apples, so this year they're bountiful," Lang's Farm owner Chris Lang said. "They made up for last year."
The type of apples available vary by week and season closing dates may change depending on weather and stock, so be sure to call or check the orchard's website for updates.
Here is a sampling of area orchards.
More Than Delicious Orchard
9905 Thompson Road, Woodstock, (815) 575-9650, morethandelicious.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Sept. 6 through the end of October
Price: $60 per bushel
More Than Delicious Orchard offers about 80 varieties of apples and pears, including popular types such as golden delicious, honeycrisp, McIntosh and Cortland.
"Our main claim to fame is the variety we have," said co-owner Velma Downes. While you're there, you can also pick up local honey, apple cider, doughnuts and cinnamon rolls.
11802 Charles Road, Woodstock, (815) 338-7443, homesteadorchard.net
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through October
Price: $1.50 per pound
Owner Don Burda said the harvest this year is tremendous with trees packed with 23 varieties of apples including McIntosh, gala, honeycrisp and Jonathan.
"We prune the trees so that the children in families can also pick," Burda said.
After apple picking, visitors can stop in the 1880s horse barn, which has been converted into a store selling Amish-made jam, jelly and salsa along with antiques.
Kuipers Family Farm
1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park, (815) 827-5200, kuipersfamilyfarm.com
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through October
Price: $9 admission includes a quarter-peck bag of apples; $15 for an additional peck
This year's cool weather has put the trees here a bit behind schedule, but you'll be able to pick some early-season varieties such as Zestar, Sansa and Blondie.
Admission includes a hayride and, new this year, the orchard is offering a petting zoo of goats and sheep that's usually only available during pumpkin season. There also will be pig races starting in September.
Homemade kettle corn is another new addition, complementing the always-popular apple cider doughnuts.
17411 Secor Road, Woodstock, (815) 568-7547, langsorchard.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday, Sept. 7 through mid-October
Price: $14 a peck or $14 for a half peck of honeycrisp
The early crop here includes gala, McIntosh and honeycrisp. Come Sept. 21, you'll be able to pick Smell Sweet, a new apple to the area. Lang's Orchard also has a small store that stocks handicrafts and fruit spreads with no sugar added.
Prairie Sky Orchard
4914 N. Union Road, Union, (815) 923-4834, prairieskyorchard.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Saturday, Aug. 31 through Oct. 31
Price: $2 per pound
The small orchard has 2,000 dwarf apple trees, making it easy for kids to pick their six varieties including honeycrisp, gala and golden delicious.
Kids can also climb on straw bales and a giant chair that holds 15 people that's popular with families looking for a photo opportunity. A small store stocks doughnuts, pies, cider, jams and jellies.
Royal Oak Farm Orchard
15908 Hebron Road, Harvard, (815) 648-4141, royaloakfarmorchard.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday through Nov. 16
Price: $20 for a peck-sized bag
This year has brought an excellent crop of Royal Oak's 29 varieties including galas, McIntosh and honeycrisp. The orchard also has raspberry picking and by mid-September you'll be able to pick pumpkins.
Some families have been coming to the orchard every fall for 15 years, taking advantage of the many attractions for kids including a carousel, playground, petting zoo, wagon tours through the orchards and concerts along with the gift shop, bakery, restaurant and educational seminars.
"It's just a great place to build a family tradition," said special events coordinator Sarah Bell.
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