Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
/ Source: TODAY
By Ben Popken

It's apple-picking season! Going to an apple-picking orchard or apple-picking farm is a great fall activity. With a few tips and tricks, it's easy to learn how to pick apples like a pro.

Believe it or not, the apples at stores and farmer's market can be months old. Farmers use various preservation techniques like cold storage, wax and fungicide to keep apples crisp and colorful even during the off season.

For the freshest apples and a fun family outing, it's impossible to beat heading to a nearby farm and picking your own fruit right off the tree. At home, the apples can be stored or cooked in delicious apple recipes like an apple pie or an apple crisp.

TODAY Food talked to a few folks at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, New Jersey, about how to pick the perfect apples.

Apple picking tips

  • 1. Get cash before arriving.

Many farms and orchards won't take credit cards because the fees are too expensive, so hit the ATM before going.

  • 2. Bring a tote bag.

Most orchards want people to use bags the farm supplies, but sometimes the bags they provide can be a little flimsy. To follow the rules and make carrying the apples easier, place the orchard's bag inside the tote.

  • 3. Ask what's ripe.

Earlier in the season, not every apple that's out there is ready to eat. It might look big and colorful, but it could be bitter or just not full of crunchy, sugary flavor. Make sure to follow the posted signs about which rows are open. Also, ask the farm workers what's ripe and what qualities to look for in each kind of apple.

Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie

Gesine Bullock-Prado
  • 4. Identify an apple that's ready to be picked.

An apple should be firm and feel heavy for its size. Make sure the skin is smooth and free of nicks, wrinkles or soft spots.

  • 5. Hold the apple softly.

Keep the apple bruise-free by using a gentle touch as it is being picked from the tree.

  • 6. Gently give the apple an upwards twist.

Tug until the tree releases the apple. If it's ripe, it should come right off. Don't shake the branch or climb the tree. That can damage next year's crop.

Al Roker's Apple Crisp
  • 7. Lightly place the apple in your bag to avoid bruising.

Bruised apples rot faster.

  • 8. Eat the apple.

Don't worry if the apple has a white layer on it, that's just oxidation. Farmers say any pesticides were sprayed months ago and most have been washed off by rain by harvest time. Just give the apple a little shine on your shirt, then a quick rinse and it's ready to eat. Chomp, chomp!

Here's everything you need to know about how to store and prepare apples, along with 13 sweet and savory apple recipes.

This article was originally published on Oct. 10, 2014.