Filling a basket with fruits, vegetables, and flowers from a local farm feels far more rewarding than doing it at a grocery store.
And there’s way more than just apples out there.
At area U-Pick farms, you’re able to harvest hot peppers, quinces, pears, herbs, strawflowers, even potatoes. What’s more, many of these farms grow exotic crops rarely found in supermarkets, like Belle de Boskoop antique apples, orange-white pumpkins with reddish streaks, and herbs, like shiso. Since New England weather can be finicky, be sure to call ahead before you go to learn what’s available to pick. Most of the farms below — just a sampling of the spots around New England — offer U-Pick options until Halloween with different items available as the season progresses.
Stop by this nonprofit farm — which donates 20 percent of all the produce it grows to area hunger relief programs — to pick a dream bouquet of flowers that could include such fall varieties as rainbow-hued snapdragons and zinnias, sunflowers, feathery reddish pink celosia, blue salvia, and brightly colored statice and strawflowers, both perfect for drying. You also can pick purple, red, and yellow cherry tomatoes; green, yellow, and purple string beans; and a variety of herbs, including exotic ones like shiso and cinnamon basil. Land’s Sake, 90 Wellesley St., Weston. 781-893-1162, landssake.org
From now until the first frost, this 93-acre family farm will have fields of multicolored zinnias and dahlias available to pick, along with multiple types of sunflowers, including the Japanese Teddy Bear variety, which is all-yellow and fluffy, like a pompom. (The farm supplies buckets and shears.) The farm also has over 20 varieties of apples to pick, as well as the Farmstand, which sells farm-grown produce, scones and tea breads made with farm-grown fruits, cider donuts, farm-harvested honey, and more. Kids will delight in the farm’s animals, including the goats walking on a platform in the trees, and hay maze. Parlee Farms, 95 Farwell Road, Tyngsboro. 978-649-3854, parlee
Red Apple Farm
Dig your own Dark Red Norland potatoes — yes, potatoes — and harvest sorghum stalks to tie into decorative bundles at this wind- and solar-powered family farm. Here they grow almost 20 different kinds of specialty pumpkins for picking, including the ghostly Blue Doll, and One Too Many, which resembles a bloodshot eyeball. The farm also has 50 different U-Pick apple varieties throughout the season, including Snow, Winter Banana, and Senator. October brings various types of winter squash to pick, along with colorful gourds. The farm’s Country Store sells pies, apple dumplings, cider donuts, produce, and fudge. Red Apple Farm, 455 Highland Ave., Phillipston. 800-628-4851, redapplefarm.com
From now until first frost, you can pick fall-bearing raspberries (yes!) at this 85-acre family farm. They also grow 15 varieties of apples to pick, as well as little Sugar Pumpkins from the small, child-friendly patch and jumbo orbs from the larger field (the farm supplies hand-pull wagons). At the Farm Store, you’ll find farm-grown fruits and vegetables, cider, maple syrup, jams, and various baked goods made in a nut-free kitchen using farm-fresh ingredients. Clearview Farm, 4 Kendall Hill Road, Sterling. 978-422-6442, clearviewfarmstand.com
Honey Pot Hill Orchards
This 180-acre family farm is one of the few places growing pears to pick — due to a disease that has been attacking pear trees and can spread to apple trees. Right now, you can pick Bosc pears; October will bring Harrow Sweet pears, which look and taste like Bartletts. The farm also has several dozen kinds of apples to pick, while the farm store sells cider, jams, and baked goods (including cider donuts) as well as fruits and veggies. Children will particularly enjoy the farm animals (sheep, goats, bunnies), hayrides, and hedge mazes. Honey Pot Hill Orchards, 138 Sudbury Road, Stow. 978-562-5666. www.honeypothill.com
Head over to this small, family-run orchard to pick multiple varieties of quince to tenderize in sweet syrup or add to pies, savory stews, and tagines. The farm also has over 60 varieties of U-pick apples, as well as pears, including Asian pears. Rocky Brook Orchard, 997 Wapping Road, Middletown, R.I. 401-851-7989, rockybrook
Stone Bridge Farm
Come October, you can dry harvest cranberries as part of an October Farm Tour — and also pull on a pair of waders and walk out into a flooded bog with cranberries bobbing to learn about the history of cranberries, cranberry farming, and harvesting equipment. These unique tours run seven days a week through October and fill up fast, so book now, either by calling the farm or signing up on the website. The farm also sells freshly-harvested cranberries, chocolate-covered craisins, and cranberry-rich baked goods. Stone Bridge Farm, 186 Leonard St., Acushnet. 508-951-1551 stonebridge
Tangerini’s Spring Street Farm
Pick a peck of peppers at this 65-acre farm, where you’ll find all sorts of organically-grown peppers, such as cayenne, hot cherry peppers, Cubanelle, and red, yellow, and green bell peppers. You can also pick your own organically-grown eggplants and tomatoes, including heirloom varieties, plum, slicing, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes. The Farmer’s Porch offers simple soups, salads, and sandwiches using ingredients from the farm, while the Farm Stand sells farm-grown produce, local meats, cheeses, baked goods and 30 flavors of ice cream. Tangerini’s Spring Street Farm, 139 Spring St., Millis. 508-376-5024, tangerinisfarm.com
Nashoba Valley Winery
This orchard/winery/restaurant/brewery grows approximately 100 varieties of apples available for picking throughout the season. Many of those apples grow in the regular U-Pick orchard, while the specialty apples grow in the designated antique apple orchard that you can pick from, but by appointment only. Old-world apples you might encounter include Belle de Boskoop (red-russet skin with juicy, sweet flesh and originally from the Netherlands) and Duchess of Oldenburg (a Russian variety with yellow reddish skin and a punchy flavor). Plus, there are wine tastings, a gift shop, and well-behaved dogs are allowed on the property. Nashoba Valley Winery, 100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton. 978-779-5521, nashoba
Victoria Abbott Riccardi can be reached at vabbottriccardi@