Even on the sunniest of days, the air is starting to have a crispness to it. Soon we'll be swapping our ice-cold beverages for a warming mug of Minnesota-made cider. Yes, it's finally apple season.
And that means local apple orchards are opening their gates. Some go all out, offering hay rides, corn mazes, live music and other family-friendly activities. Others operate apple-focused bakeries — a feast of doughnuts, fritters, turnovers, pies and crisps — and many concentrate on general stores stocked with pre-picked apples, freshly pressed cider, caramel apples and other apple-related products. Then there are the purists, who stick strictly to the highly underrated fresh-air activity of apple picking.
These mostly U-pick orchards are within (roughly) a 90-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis. Some have already started welcoming apple enthusiasts, while others are opening soon. Be sure to do your research before visiting to confirm hours, services, availability and payment options.
Lee Peterson Tree Farm, 5968 149th Av. SE., 612-423-3441, leepetersontreefarm.com
Cherith Farms, 27450 Raven Road, 507-665-5055, cherithfarms.com
Emma Krumbee's Apple Orchard, 311 Enterprise Drive E., 952-873-3006, emmakrumbees.com
Deer Lake Orchard, 1903 SW. 10th St., 763-682-4284, deerlakeorchard.com
Woods' Edge Apples, 1901 NE. 50th St., Buffalo, 763-682-4409, facebook.com/Woods-Edge-Apples
Apple Jack Orchards, 4875 SE. 37th St., 763-972-6673, applejackorchards.com
Apple Tree-O, 5667 SE. 90th St., 763-390-7795, appletreeo.com
Elko New Market
Thompsons' Hillcrest Orchard, 6271 E. 250th St., 952-461-2055, thompsonsapples.com
Trumps Orchard, 1020 St. Paul Av., 507-334-5167, trumpsorchard.com
Afton Apple, 14421 90th St. S., 651-436-8385, aftonapple.com
Croix Farm Orchard, 12971 St. Croix Trail S., 651-437-7126, croixfarm.com
Whistling Well Farm, 8973 St. Croix Trail S., 651-998-0301, whistlingwellfarm.com
Applecrest Orchards, 7306 24th Av. N., 651-583-5209, applecrestorchards.com
Minnesota Harvest, 8251 Old Hwy. 169 Blvd., 952-492-2785, minnesotaharvest.net
Pepin Heights, 1775 Hwy. 61 S., 651-345-2305, fergusonsorchard.com
Applewood Orchard, 22702 Hamburg Av., 952-985-5425, applewoodorchard.net
Organic Breezy Hill, 3944 Iresfield Av. NW., organicbreezyhill.com
Minnetonka Orchards, 6530 County Road 26, minnetonkaorchardmn.com
Montgomery Orchard, 15953 Hwy. 99, 952-221-1051, montgomeryorchard.com
Fall Harvest Orchard, 345 County Road 30 SE., 763-972-3894, fallharvestorchard.com
Fireside Orchard and Gardens, 2225 Lonsdale Blvd. E., 507-663-1376, firesideorchard.com
Silkey Gardens, 5561 SE. 115th St., 651-357-5092, silkeygardens.com
Northwoods Orchard, 8018 75th Av. NW., northwoodsorchard.com
J.Q. Fruit Farm & Orchard, 8082 33rd St., 763-389-2567, jqfruitfarm.com
Frontenac Hills Orchard, 30202 Frontenac Hills Way, 651-212-1768
Apples R Us Orchard, 3856 NE. 65th St., 507-269-2140, applesrus.com
Sekapp Orchard, 3415 Collegeview Road E., 507-282-4544, sekapporchard.com
Knapton's, 5695 Hwy. 55, 763-479-1184, knaptons.org
Moulton's Orchard, 51513 Game Av., 320-248-0042, bit.ly/3ACkwhq
Peter's Pumpkins & Carmen's Corn, 12860 Old Brick Yard Road, 952-906-0247, peterspumpkins.com
Victoria Valley Orchard, 4304 N. Victoria St., 651-484-4500, victoriavalleyorchard.com
Fairhaven Farm, 13835 51st Av., 320-236-7685, fairhaven-farm.com
Dew Fresh Produce, 404 375th Av. NE., 763-689-2282, bit.ly/3TvVkBO
Jake's Apple Shack, 601 375th Av. NE., 763-689-2282, jakesappleshack.com
Aamodt's Apple Farm, 6428 Manning Av., 651-439-3127, aamodtsapplefarm.com
Sunnybrook Apple Orchard, 9085 Jeffrey Blvd. N., 651-432-4866, sunnybrookappleorchard.com
Deardorff Orchards, 8282 Parley Lake Road, deardorfforchards.com
LuceLine Orchard, 2755 Rose Av., 612-817-6229, lucelineorchard.com
Havlicek's Veseli Vrsek Orchard, 26526 Newport Av., 952-758-4386, havlicekorchard.com
Nelson's Apple Farm, 3010 Douglas Av., 952-461-3355, nelsonsapplefarm.com
Sweetland Orchard, 26205 Fairlawn Av., 651-252-4337, sweetlandorchard.com, pre-bagged only
White Bear Lake
Pine Tree Orchard, 450 Apple Orchard Road, 651-439-7202, pinetreeappleorchard.com
Sunrise River Farm, 7602 Wyoming Trail, 651-462-8220, sunriseriverfarm.com
Now that you have apples ...
Good, fresh-picked apples are good all on their own. But you'd be missing out if you didn't take the opportunity to use them in dishes both sweet and savory. Here's a start:
Chicken, Wild Rice and Apple-Pecan Salad
"I like serving this salad in the fall when the leaves start changing. The combination of wild rice and apples always feels right for the season, and this is a handy salad for a light dinner or as a weekday lunch when you're working from home," writes author Stephanie Hansen in "True North Cabin Cookbook: Recipes and Stories From a North Woods Table" (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2022). You can also substitute leftover roasted chicken.
For the vinaigrette:
• 2 large cloves garlic, minced or grated
• 1/3 c. rice vinegar
• 1/4 c. toasted sesame oil
• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp. soy sauce
• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tsp. orange zest
• 1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
• 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 tsp. black pepper
For the salad:
• 2 c. uncooked wild rice
• 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 tsp. salt
• 4 1/2 c. chicken stock
• 1/2 c. raw pecans
• 1 c. cubed Honeycrisp apple
• 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
• 1 c. chopped green onions, light green and white parts
• 1/2 c. chopped red onion
• 1/4 c. chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
For the vinaigrette: Place cloves, rice vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil, soy sauce, mustard, orange zest, orange juice, ginger, salt and pepper in a Mason jar and shake until thoroughly combined.
For the salad: Place the wild rice in a saucepan. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on top of the rice. Add salt and stock to the pot and bring to a boil. (White scummy foam will collect on the surface of the stock; it's fine to leave it.) Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let the chicken and rice cook for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Continue cooking rice for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat until fragrant and brown. (The nuts will burn easily, so pay close attention.) Set aside.
Once chicken is cooled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Drain rice and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, toss apple cubes with vinaigrette. Add cubed chicken, rice, celery, green onions, red onion, parsley and toasted pecans. Toss again until all ingredients are well coated and serve.