If you’re looking for a farm fruit picking experience without the pricey agro-entertainment, a visit to Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck, NJ, is a must. In the fall, my family loves roaming the grounds to find the perfect apples that we use to make fresh apple crisp, and sweet apple pie. In late summer, we often stop by to gather up the peaches to eat right from the bowl. No matter what type of fruit you pick, it’s sure to be a sweet afternoon, and since there’s no entry fee, you can visit whenever the mood strikes. It’s no wonder Eastmont Orchards is in our best pick-your-own guide. Read on for more to know about picking and the farm. (featured photo taken at Eastmont Orchards)
- Grab a cart before exploring the fields at Eastmont Orchards. Photo taken at Eastmont Orchards
Eastmont Orchards: Pick your own fruit
The first apple trees at Eastmont Orchards were planted in 1911, and the orchards have been owned by the Barclay family since 1923. The orchards have two pick-your-own areas—mid-to-late summer offers peaches, and late summer to early fall, apple season starts. And we always stop by the farm stand, even when we’re not up for picking. We find they have a fresh selection of summer and fall vegetables, and in the fall, we make sure to stock up on pumpkins and gourds for decorating and carving.
- There are over 20 varieties of apples available throughout the season. Photo taken at Eastmont Orchards
Fill a bag with apples
This fall, we spent an afternoon picking apples. Besides entering for free, Eastman Orchards lets you bring your own bags for picking. We grabbed a cart when we entered, and as we walked toward the orchards, there were signs with arrows that directed us to different apple varieties. Throughout the season, there are mid-late August apples like Gala and Ginger Gold, and later on, Arkansas Black and Stayman Winesap. There are over 20 varieties to choose from, depending on when you go picking. We started picking as we followed the arrows to rows and rows of trees marked by variety. We learned that when you find a ripe apple, it’s best to grasp the stem between your index finger and thumb and then give it a slight twist and gentle tug. The kids loved filling the bags with their tasty finds. And we were happy to know that the haul would last a while since apples can be kept for several months if refrigerated at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peaches are a sweet reward after a day of picking. Photo taken at Eastmont Orchards
Pick the perfect peach
If you visit Eastmont Orchards from mid-July to September, you can pick your own peaches. From Glengold and Sentry peaches in July to Encore peaches in September, there are about 15 varieties to choose from throughout the season. And like apples, the picking method is the same—you grasp the stem between your index finger and thumb and then just twist and gently tug it off the branch. Peaches are the opposite of apples regarding storage—they taste the best unrefrigerated. However, if they ripen early and you want to keep them longer, you can refrigerate them, or freezing is an even better option.
- You can pick your apples and then find the plumpest pumpkin before you leave. Photo taken at Eastmont Orchards
What to know before you go
The orchard is open to pick-your-own customers beginning around mid-July and usually ending the last weekend in October. The standard hours for the orchard are 9 AM- 4:30 PM on weekdays and 9 AM-5:30 PM on weekends, but the hours depend on weather and supply conditions. It is always recommended to call ahead at (732) 542-5404 before you leave or check their Facebook page. There is no entrance fee, and during some weekends, they offer a hayride into the fields ($5 a person). The fruit is weighed and priced accordingly—you only pay for what you pick. It is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and older boots on wet days at the orchard, and strollers are welcome (it’s a bit hilly in some areas). Portable toilets with hand sanitizer are also available on the grounds. Parking is free on the grassy fields. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags; you can have your bags weighed before picking. Once you get your fruits home, Eastmont Orchards has several recipes available to try everything from Peach Crumb Cake to Apple Spice Cake to enjoy the fruits of your labor all season long.
321 Route 537
Colts Neck, NJ 07722
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