Nothing says autumn more than juicy, red ripe apples. So, why not take a break from your regular routine and give your homeschooler an exciting learning adventure he'll never forget? Pack a picnic lunch and let your child enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of harvesting apples in a pick-your-own orchard. Not only will you come home with a trunk load of tasty, fresh fruit for healthy snacks and mouth-watering desserts, but your child will also gain practical knowledge and hands-on experience in selecting, picking, and storing God's most amazing fruit: the apple.

Before Your Visit

To make the most of your apple harvesting field trip, you'll want to prepare and study about apples several weeks prior to your outing. For instance, the apple belongs to the rose family and has over 7,000 varieties worldwide. Also, the state of Washington processes over 50% of the apples grown in the United States. You can teach interesting facts like these and explore the entire process of growing apples from blossom time to harvest in the LIFEPAC 3rd Grade History & Geography Unit 3 Worktext from Alpha Omega Publications.

While some apples are best for eating, others are best for cooking. Some varieties even do double duty and are enjoyed both ways. Since many orchards don't grow every variety, it's important to match your visit with the orchard that grows the apples your homeschooling family enjoys most. When choosing what apples to pick, consider the following varieties and their uses:

Applesauce or canning
Golden Delicious, Paula Red, Rhode Island Greening, and Spartan

Baked
Braeburn, Gala, Gravenstein, Rome Beauty, and York Imperial

Pies
Granny Smith, Jonagold, McIntosh, Northern Spy, and Romes

Raw
Baldwin, Braeburn, Cortland, Criterion, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Jonathan, Lady Apple, Macoun, McIntosh, Newton Pippin, Northern Spy, Pink Lady®, Red Delicious, Rhode Island Greening, Stayman, Winesap, and York Imperial

In addition to finding an orchard with the apple varieties you enjoy, you'll want to prepare by calling ahead to confirm the orchard's hours of operation. Verify if children are welcome and also if you need to bring your own containers and ladder. Plus, be prepared to pick apples in work clothes and shoes that might get muddy. Also, remember that you'll have to either store or preserve every apple you pick when you get home.

At the Orchard

At the apple orchard, your child can pick, sort, wash, and eat apples. You can also make apple cider, learn about how food goes from the farmer to the consumer, and glean many other science, math, and economic concepts that relate to apple growing.

Teach your child how to select firm, bright-colored fruit without bruises or soft spots. Ripe apples should have a fresh scent and be easy to pick with stems that stay attached. When picking, simply roll or twist the apple so its stem separates from the tree. Do not pick apples on the ground, since they were bruised when they fell from the tree. Some orchards also provide picking poles for those perfectly ripened apples high up in hard-to-reach branches.

After Your Visit

After enjoying your field trip and the pleasant experience of harvesting apples in the orchard, you'll want to maintain the quality, juiciness, and crispness of your apples. Handle apples gently and store fully ripened apples in your refrigerator crisper for up to six weeks. However, keep them away from foods with strong odors like onions and never store them with other fast-ripening fruit. Apples emit an ethylene gas that speeds the ripening of soft-skinned fruits, such as peaches, plums, and pears.

In addition to storing fresh apples to eat raw, you can preserve them for flavorful snacks and trail mixes with a food dehydrator. Pie apples can be peeled, cored, sliced, and frozen to use later. To prevent apples from oxidizing and turning brown during this process, just add a small amount of lemon juice to water and place sliced apples in the solution until you're ready to rinse, bag, and place them in the freezer.

Best of all, you can use your freshly picked apples immediately to make delicious tasting treats like applesauce, apple crisp, apple pie, apple muffins, and our homeschooling family's personal favorite:

Danish Apple Bars
2¾ cups white flour
1 cup shortening or lard (soften to room temperature)
½ tsp. salt

Cut shortening into flour and salt with fork until crumbly. Then, mix together.

1 egg yolk (save egg white for glaze) added to enough milk to equal 2/3 cup of liquid.

Add milk and egg to above flour mixture and form into a ball by hand. (If sticky, add extra flour in small amounts until you get a pie dough consistency). Divide dough in half. Roll out one half into a rectangular shape to fit an ungreased 10" x 15" bar pan. The dough should cover the bottom of the pan and go part way up the sides. Next, evenly spread 1-1½ cups of slightly crushed corn flakes on top of the dough.

Mix: 1 cup sugar
        1 tsp. cinnamon
        4-5 cups apples (peeled, cored, and thinly sliced)

Spread apple mixture evenly over the corn flakes.

Roll out remaining dough and place on top of the apple mixture. Pinch the edges of the bottom and top dough together by hand to seal in the juices when baking.

Beat one egg white until frothy and spread evenly over the top crust with a pastry brush.

Bake at 350º for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. Drizzle with glaze mixture below:

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. milk (add slowly and adjust amount for a glaze consistency)

Have a favorite apple recipe of your own? Insert your recipe in the comment section below and click "submit" to share the best apple taste of autumn at your homeschool!