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Freshly Picked Apples: To Cook or to Eat?

Fall is here! Whether you’re on the right side of the pumpkin spice debate or not (and there IS a right side, of course, but we’ll leave that for another day), we can all agree that apple picking is a “must” if you live in New England. Now that you’ve picked all those fresh, local apples, the question is … what do you do with them?

After much research and taste testing, the verdict is in. No matter which type of apple you pick in New England, they’re all delicious when eaten fresh off the tree! Read on to learn about some of the most popular varieties in the area and what they’re best used for.


Both sweet and tart, the Cortland apple is a jack-of-all-trades apple. Its flesh browns slowly, making it a great choice for salads. Its juiciness also makes it a great candidate for pies, sauce and cider and as a snack. Cortlands ripen in late September or early October.


This tart, crispy, juicy variety is perfect for eating as-is. It keeps very well – up to a year in the refrigerator and a few weeks in a fruit bowl. You’ll find them ripening in late October.


If you like very sweet apples, then gala are for you! They’re great for snacking, salads and baking. And, because they don’t turn brown easily once cut, they’re great for using on fruit and cheese trays. Gala apples are picked in September.

Golden Delicious

With green-yellow skin and a crisp yellow flesh, the golden delicious is an all-purpose apple. Its holds up when cooked, and its sweetness makes it perfect for dessert, salad and apple cider. It ripens late in the season, mid-late October, so you’ll have to wait on this one!

Granny Smith

The Granny Smith apple is very tart, whether eaten fresh or baked in a pie. You can pick this one starting in mid October. Try baking it in a pie along with McIntosh – the perfect mix!


It may be too late for picking Honeycrisp, as they ripen early to mid August. This apple is sweet, has a high water content and packs a great crunch, making it excellent for eating fresh. It probably won’t work for baking, however, due to the high water content.


When first picked, the McIntosh boasts a tart, crisp taste but the flavor becomes more mellow the longer it’s kept in the fridge. It tends to be the most aromatic variety and is great for fresh eating, applesauce (as it breaks down easily) and pies when mixed with a firmer variety. You can start picking these in early September.

Red Delicious

These very sweet apples are falling in popularity, due to how poorly they keep. Red Delicious can become mealy quickly, so it’s best to eat them fresh off the tree. They’re better for fruit compote than pie, as they are neither tart nor strong in flavor. Early October is when you can pick them.

Both Belkin Lookout Farm in Natick and Davis Farmland in Sterling offer apple picking during the fall and while there are no discounts for u-pick activity, they both offer MTA member discounts to their attractions. At Belkin Family Lookout Farm, save $2 on general admission with your member card; Davis Farmland offers a $2 discount on general admission for the member and up to 4 guests.

No matter which variety you pick or what you decide to make with them, feel free to whip something up and bring it to all of us here at MTAB. 

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