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Image of apples in a reusable bag.

14 eco-friendly tips & tools for picking fruit this fall

Last Updated: September 2, 2021

Picking fruit reminds us where our food comes from. It can foster a sense of place and community—deepening our connection to the land, its finite resources, and the farmers who plant the seeds. Plus, a day picking one's own fruit can be downright fun!

But what can you bring fruit-picking that won’t disrupt that beautiful nature and leave behind a trail of trash behind you? Here's a list of our favorite environmentally-friendly products that celebrate the simple joy of picking fruit.

Plus, we've addressed some common fruit picking FAQs so your day of picking apples, berries, or pumpkins is fully covered.

3 sustainable essentials for harvesting fruit

Grove Co. Matte Cleaning Caddy

Grove Co.'s cleaning caddy can be used to hold more than just earth-friendly cleaning products.

Multi-purpose and easy-to-carry, fill it with roughly 5 quarts of freshly picked blueberries, blackberries, figs, and raspberries.

Grove member Debbie H. wrote about this caddy, “I always like to find other uses than the intended use. So, I have one that I use for lids in the kitchen and one for doggie treats. I'll find other uses for the next one that I get. They are a nice size and so handy. I really like them.”

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Modern Sprout Pruning Shears

Try these Modern Sprout's Pruning Shears because they're lightweight, durable, sharp, and easy to grip. And their compact size allows you to keep them in your back pocket while picking.

Snip, prune, and harvest other plants and small crops at home too with their high carbon steel blade and needle nose tip.

Grove member Traci W. told us, “I just love these garden shears. They are a nice size, sharp and work great! The quality is very nice!”

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mesh produce bags with produce

Organic Cotton Mesh Reusable Produce Bags

Transfer the day's hard-earned bounty into these breathable, 100% organic cotton mesh sacks.

Grove Co.'s set comes in three sizes and is perfect for sorting your produce and staying organized.

Grove member Susan A. shared these are the “perfect produce bags! Easily machine washable and hold up wonderfully. I’ve gone plastic free over the past year and appreciate these bags.”

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Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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3 just in-case eco items: For prickly thorns, pests, and harsh summer rays

Welly First Aid Travel Kit

Especially if you're bringing little ones along or navigating thorny blackberry bushes, it's a good idea to bring a small first aid kit with you.Welly's First Aid Travel Kit is stocked with 30 bandages (2 different sizes), triple antibiotic ointment, 1% hydrocortisone cream, and six hand sanitizer packets in case of a prick or itchy bug bite.

Grove member Paige B. had nothing but good things to say: “This little kit is super portable and the band aids are really useful and high quality.”

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Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion - SPF 50

If it’s a sunny day and you plan to be enjoying your time outside for a good while (i.e. fruit picking and picnicking), sun protection has probably already crossed your mind.

This sunscreen by Bare Republic provides a non-chemical option with a lightweight application and a natural vanilla coconut scent. It’s free of parabens, triclosan, chemical sunscreen actives, dyes, and synthetic fragrances.

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Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray

Depending on where you live, Murphy’s Naturals Insect Repellent Spray offers peace of mind in a few quick sprays. This DEET-free lemon eucalyptus spray won’t be greasy or sticky after it dries either. Simply apply to skin or clothing and continue picking, worry-free, for up to 6 hours.

Grove member Bonnie M. swears by this product: “We have had a real mosquito problem this year because of so much rain. Murphy's Insect Repellent is the only product we have used all summer because it doesn't contain DEET and it really works.”

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5 natural products to prep your picked fruits

Image of Grove Co. Hand Soap Sheets box with a couple sheets leaning up against it

Grove Co. Hand Soap Sheets

These Grove Co. Hand Soap Sheets allow you to quickly clean off dirt and sticky fruit juice residue after a full day of picking.

Two things that make these biodegradable sheets great is that they dissolve and lather with a minimal amount of water. Second, they’re housed in plastic-free packaging, further lowering your carbon footprint.

Grove member Leanne H. wrote “I don't know what kind of sorcery is in these little sheets, but they're my new best friend! They have an awesome lather and are small enough to fit in your purse or any bag.”

Image of Aunt Fannie's Produce Wash bottle

Aunt Fannie’s Produce Wash

With the exception of organic farms (and it's still a good idea to check with the farmer), there could be trace residues of harmful pesticides or just a little dirt on the outside of your fruit.

Aunt Fannie’s hardworking produce wash effectively cleans your fruits and vegetables with the gentle power of vinegar and citrus extracts.

Grove member Linda W. said “This has a nice scent to it. I've used alternative ways to clean my produce, but this smells the best and still works well.”

Image of Full Circle Veggie Brush

Full Circle Veggie Brush

If you’re looking to go the extra mile for your picnic preparations, you can use a reliable veggie brush to remove any remaining dirt or small particles (also works great in combination with Aunt Fannie’s Produce Wash).

Full Circle’s brush also has a comfortable bamboo handle, and its bristles are made from both recycled plant–fiber and recycled plastic. Bring it along on your next outing and keep it by your sink for further cleaning.

Grove member Angela J. remarked “Nice sturdy brush that works great in getting debris off of vegetables. The bristles are sturdy yet gentle on veggies.”

Image of Marley's Monsters Unpaper Towels on roll in lemon print

Marley’s Monsters Rolled UNpaper® Towels

For drying off freshly washed produce or wiping your fruit-cutting knife clean, these reusable paper towels are an excellent option to help minimize waste.

Made from 100% cotton flannel, use as you would a paper towel—but don’t throw them away, you can wash and reuse. Plus, they're smartly bundled around a cardboard tube that fits into most existing holders.

Grove member Kaitlin R. said “I’ve been wanting to switch to reusable napkins/paper towels and this item was perfect! I like how they are soft and stick together; you can roll them back on the tube!”

Image of person holding a full Biobag scrap bag

Biobag Small Food Scrap Compost Bags

You've just arranged an eye-popping salad with fresh-sliced peach and apple. Now place leftover cores, pits, and other inedible morsels into this compost bag (made from plant- and vegetable-based materials) before dropping it off in your compost bin.

These compostable bags breathe without leaking and ensure proper ventilation so that your waste dries out, reducing nasty rot, mold, and odors.

Grove member Elisa S. wrote “Holds a lot of scraps, and doesn't break easily even with wet compost like coffee grounds or fruit pieces.”

3 products for an earth-friendly picnic

bamboo prep board

Grove Co. Bamboo Prep Board

Grove's prep board is compact enough to easily pack along for a picnic and useful for slicing, chopping, and cutting herbs and other small sundries at home.

It's made of 100% bamboo — a sustainable material that’s ultra-durable, easy on knives, and naturally antibacterial.

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bambu Veneerware Compostable Plates

Available in several sizes, these plates are super durable, and won't bend or buckle under the weight of food. In fact, you can also use them multiple times.

Plus, the Veneerware® line of single-use disposable plates are made from 100% certified organic bamboo, and they will biodegrade in 4-6 months.

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compostable cutlery

New U-Konserve Reusable Cutlery

U-Konserve's eco-friendly bamboo cutlery sets (fork, spoon, and knife) are perfect to take along for a picnic—as well as work or school lunches, playdates, and travel.

Each set comes with its own carrying case (in seafoam or navy) made from 100% recycled PET #1 plastic bottles.

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Fruit picking tips

What fruits are in season for picking? In summer? In fall? In winter? In spring?

Depending on where you're located, think raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, figs, and grapes for the months ahead (August through October). is a great resource that lets you know what's ready for harvest in your area (both fruits and vegetables) by state and calendar month.

For our local friends in Northern California, CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) provides a monthly breakdown of fruits and nuts available, both in-season and outside their natural harvest season (but can still be found at market).

How should fruits be chosen?

Apples: There are a few different methods to tell if an apple is ripe for the picking.

First off, don’t force it! Give the apple a light tug. If it doesn’t come off easily, more likely than not it needs some time.

A second method is the seed test. Vertically cut the apple in half down the middle. As the apple ripens, the seeds will change from white to brown.

Finally, check its ground color (this works well with many varieties of apples and peaches). Locate an area of the fruit where there is only green coloration; this is referred to as the fruit's ground color. For many apples, the fruit is ripe when its ground color has changed to the varietal’s final color.

Blackberries and blueberries: The first thing to note is that neither fruit continues to ripen once picked.

Blackberries, unironically, are sweetest and richest in flavor when they’ve reached a deep, black color. For blueberries, look for a grey-blue coloration. There should be no trace of red. Both should feel plump to the touch when you put the berry between the forefinger and thumb. They should also pull away from the branch with little effort.

Peaches: Similar to apples, peaches should separate easily from the tree. One can also tell how ripe they are by the ground color test.

As peaches ripen, the green will give way to yellow, then orange and red. Lastly, firmness more or less comes down to preference. A crisp bite or soft and juicy—how do you take your peach?

For other fruit-specific questions, your farmer would be a good person to ask. The layout of the farm, hours, pricing, and other helpful policies (such as whether to bring your own containers) are also things you'll want to inquire about before your first visit.

U-Pick Farm Locator can help you find a farm in your area to get-in-touch with.

How do you pick high fruit?

The tried and true techniques of picking high-hanging fruit from tall trees are as uncomplicated as one might imagine. Which method you choose will depend on the amount of effort and resources you'd like to spend.

One simple method is to shake the tree and its branches while having two people hold a tarp beneath to catch the fruit.

Another option is to purchase a fruit-picker basket or long-reach pruning shears. For the latter, again have some friends beneath with a broad catching device to avoid bruised fruit.

Final tips for fruit picking this year

Image of woman pulling wagon outside of home
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that won't limit your range of motion and that you won't mind getting dirty.
  • Call your farm ahead to confirm what's available, pricing, container policies (Can you bring your own?), etc.
  • Weather-dependent, think sunscreen and a long-sleeved shirt if it's sunny or layers in the fall to keep warm.
  • Bring extra water and pack lunches and snacks if you plan to pick for a long time and picnic after.
  • Freeze, gift, can, and jam what's not eaten to avoid any food waste.

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