Danny Bonvissuto, HGTV Gardens Contributor
Apple a Day
It may take some time for them to produce fruit, but placing fruit trees among other plantings in your garden can offer fruits from your garden labors.

Fall might be prime time for pumpkins, but apples are red-hot right now and orchards all over the country are buzzing with bakers in search of the best fillings for pies, cobblers and steamy mugs of cider. But you don’t have to have a menu in mind to spend an autumn afternoon on a farm picking fruit, buying baked goods and watching the world go by on the back of a tractor. Here are just a handful of places to get your pick on:

Carter Mountain Orchard—Charlottesville, Virginia
Talk about all-American, this orchard is just a few minutes down the road from Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Carter Mountain celebrates the apple all year long, starting with apple blossom time in the spring, an apple harvest celebration every weekend in October with music, food, wine tastings and apple picking now through November. Bring an extra bag to carry home their homemade apple cider donuts. 1435 Carters Mountain Trail, 434.977.1833, www.cartermountainorchard.com

Linvilla Orchards—Media, Pennsylvania
It might be easier to list the things Linvilla doesn’t offer: This 300-acre farm has a playground, pools, petting zoo, fishing area, farm market, pick-your-own orchards and they host a festival for practically every fruit they produce. Linvilla has 20 acres of apple orchards with varieties including Gold Rush, Pink Lady, Mutsu and Macoun that are ripe for the picking through mid November. 137 West Knowlton Road, 610.876.7116, www.linvilla.com

Deardorff Orchards—Waconia, Minnesota
If hopping on a tractor and heading out into an orchard sounds like a fine way to spend a day, Deardorff has some Honeycrisps waiting for you through October. They also have an apple barn built in 1888 that’s stocked with gifts, honey, and locally made foods, plus red wagons for the kids and an onsite winery guests can tour on their way to the orchards. 8350 Parley Lake Road, 952.442.1885, www.deardorfforchards.com

Stribling Orchards—Markham, Virginia
Rip into a Rambo, Smokehouse, Ginger Gold, Tydeman Red or a bushel of other varieties of apples through October at this family-run orchard with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Weekend visitors can make a stop at the Harvest House store for local cheeses, peanuts, eggs, fresh baked goods like apple cinnamon raisin bread and even apple wine. 11587 Poverty Hollow Lane, 540.364.3040, www.striblingorchard.com

Gordon Skagit Farms—Mt. Vernon, Washington
Washingtonians know their apples from their oranges, and the Gordon family has farmed the Skagit Valley of the Pacific Northwest since 1932. Venture out in October to pick their signature Jonagolds, then stay for some cider, a walk through the crop circle corn maze and browse the entries in the Great Pumpkin Weigh-In. 15598 McLean Road, 360.424.0363, www.gordonskagitfarms.com

If these apples fall a little too far from your tree, find a u-pick orchard in your area at www.pickyourown.org

Looking for something different to do with the forbidden fruit? Try the Spicy Cider, which is fresh from the fall menu at Capiz Lounge in the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. Mixologist Casey Carney uses fresh pressed cider from Russell Orchards in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Spicy Cider

Yield: 1 drink

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 1/2 ounce apple cider
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 slice jalapeno
  • 1 sprig mint

Muddle jalapeno, mint and simple syrup. Combine remaining ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake well, strain and pour into a highball glass.

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