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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.

Becker

Lee Peterson Tree Farm, 5968 149th Av. SE., 612-423-3441, leepetersontreefarm.com

Belle Plaine

Cherith Farms, 27450 Raven Road, 507-665-5055, cherithfarms.com

Emma Krumbee's Apple Orchard, 311 Enterprise Drive E., 952-873-3006, emmakrumbees.com

Buffalo

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

Delano

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

Faribault

Trumps Orchard, 1020 St. Paul Av., 507-334-5167, trumpsorchard.com

Hastings

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

Hugo

Applecrest Orchards, 7306 24th Av. N., 651-583-5209, applecrestorchards.com

Jordan

Minnesota Harvest, 8251 Old Hwy. 169 Blvd., 952-492-2785, minnesotaharvest.net

Lake City

Pepin Heights, 1775 Hwy. 61 S., 651-345-2305, fergusonsorchard.com

Lakeville

Applewood Orchard, 22702 Hamburg Av., 952-985-5425, applewoodorchard.net

Maple Lake

Organic Breezy Hill, 3944 Iresfield Av. NW., organicbreezyhill.com

Minnetrista

Minnetonka Orchards, 6530 County Road 26, minnetonkaorchardmn.com

Montgomery

Montgomery Orchard, 15953 Hwy. 99, 952-221-1051, montgomeryorchard.com

Montrose

Fall Harvest Orchard, 345 County Road 30 SE., 763-972-3894, fallharvestorchard.com

Northfield

Fireside Orchard and Gardens, 2225 Lonsdale Blvd. E., 507-663-1376, firesideorchard.com

Silkey Gardens, 5561 SE. 115th St., 651-357-5092, silkeygardens.com

Oronoco

Northwoods Orchard, 8018 75th Av. NW., northwoodsorchard.com

Princeton

J.Q. Fruit Farm & Orchard, 8082 33rd St., 763-389-2567, jqfruitfarm.com

Red Wing

Frontenac Hills Orchard, 30202 Frontenac Hills Way, 651-212-1768

Rochester

Apples R Us Orchard, 3856 NE. 65th St., 507-269-2140, applesrus.com

Sekapp Orchard, 3415 Collegeview Road E., 507-282-4544, sekapporchard.com

Rockford

Knapton's, 5695 Hwy. 55, 763-479-1184, knaptons.org

Rush City

Moulton's Orchard, 51513 Game Av., 320-248-0042, bit.ly/3ACkwhq

Shakopee

Peter's Pumpkins & Carmen's Corn, 12860 Old Brick Yard Road, 952-906-0247, peterspumpkins.com

Shoreview

Victoria Valley Orchard, 4304 N. Victoria St., 651-484-4500, victoriavalleyorchard.com

South Haven

Fairhaven Farm, 13835 51st Av., 320-236-7685, fairhaven-farm.com

Stanchfield

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

Stillwater

Aamodt's Apple Farm, 6428 Manning Av., 651-439-3127, aamodtsapplefarm.com

Sunnybrook Apple Orchard, 9085 Jeffrey Blvd. N., 651-432-4866, sunnybrookappleorchard.com

Waconia

Deardorff Orchards, 8282 Parley Lake Road, deardorfforchards.com

Watertown

LuceLine Orchard, 2755 Rose Av., 612-817-6229, lucelineorchard.com

Webster

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

Wyoming

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

Serves 4.

"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

Directions

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.