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).
Pickyourown.org 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.