Last Friday, my husband and I took our three kids and two additional munchkins apple and peach picking at Outhouse Orchards, located on Hardscrabble Road. Given that infelicitous pairing of names, I halfway expected to drive into a tunnel and come out on the other side to find the technicolor world of Westchester, NY had faded to a Depression-era black-and-white farmstead, complete with dust clouds and some gaunt looking cows – the reverse of Dorothy heading to Oz.
To be honest, we picked Outhouse in part because it seemed like a lower-key experience than some of its neighboring farms boasting McMansion-sized bouncy houses, pumpkin slinging, and draconian payment policies. (“No, parents may not watch their kids bounce unless they also have purchased tickets.” “Yes, you are required to buy all $108 dollars of apples you picked, even though you thought you were picking Galas, not Guccis.) With seven of us and a budget, it didn’t make sense to try to Disneyfy the experience. We just wanted some fruit and cider donuts.
Outhouse turned out to be an ideal place to get both. We arrived ahead of most of the crowd, so many times we were the only people in sight. Just us and the apple and peach trees.
For months, it’s felt like New York has been unable to pick a season, but Friday was a dream of an early fall day: Sunny, but not hot, with a light breeze and blue skies. Part of the orchard was nestled in a valley, so we hiked down over a green ocean of rolling tufts of grass.
No dust-clouds in sight.
The kids took turns wielding apple picking poles or looking for low-hanging fruit in search of the most beautiful apple in the orchard. There was a lot of good-natured apple trash-talking before this one won by virtue of showing up with its own crown.
After we’d filled half our bag, we hiked back up the hill and still further up (past the corn maze, past the raucous school groups getting tractor rides) to the peach orchard. From there, we could see rows of saplings below low-slung clouds in shades of lavender gray.
It was late enough in the season that the trees were surrounded by fallen fruit, meaning a lot of squishiness underfoot, but nobody minded. We unanimously agreed that while the apples were good, the peaches were divine: plump, rosy, and sweet.
One tip for fellow harvesters: You can buy either a $10 bag or a $25 bag. We chose the latter, but short of a bodybuilder in your party or a wagon that can navigate bumpy terrain, I would not recommend going quite that big. We gathered more fruit than my husband – our designated pack mule – could carry comfortably – and more than our mesh bag could handle. It began splitting on the way down the hill from the peaches, and we barely made it back to our vehicle.
All that walking, reaching, and climbing was appetite-building! Fortunately, Outhouse sells what my sister (an apple picking connoisseur) calls the best cider donuts she’s ever eaten. She was right – they were piping hot and dusted with sugar. The pumpkin spice donuts were nothing to sneeze at either. We left with tired feet, sticky mouths, and happy taste buds. (Although we were still hungry enough to stop by Mama’s Empanadas on the way home.)
And yes, true to the orchard’s name, there was a row of porta-potties conveniently placed at the bottom of the hill.