Updated: September 29, 2013 12:05PM
After many farmers lost their entire crop in 2012 thanks to some freaky spring weather, the big story in 2013 is how well most trees have rebounded.
Some orchards opened in early August while others won’t open until Labor Day or shortly thereafter. Most are ripe for the picking, just in time to take an apple for the teacher on the first day of school.
Here’s a list of apple orchards. It’s a good idea to call ahead to check on crop supply and ripening dates; plus rules on pets, strollers and wagons and payment policies.
ALL SEASONS ORCHARD: 14510 Illinois 176, Woodstock, Ill., (815) 338-5637, allseasonsorchard.com.
This family-run orchard offers more than 11,000 trees and 12 of the most popular varieties of apples and pears including the popular Honeycrisp variety. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays. The orchard opens Aug. 31 as does the corn maze and barnyard activities. Parking is free, credit cards are accepted. Call or check the website for admission prices. No pets are allowed.
APPLES ON OAK: 16146 W. Oak Ave., Joliet, Ill., (815) 726-0386, applesonoak.com.
This cozy family-run orchard — which reported a bumper crop for 2013 — has more than 700 trees comprised of between 90 and 100 varieties. The orchard’s a popular Will County destination that is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays through the second week of October — or until the last apple is picked. New for 2013 are holistically grown tomatoes and peppers.
GARDEN PATCH FARMS AND ORCHARD: 14154 W. 159th St., Homer Glen, Ill., (708) 301-7720, gardenpatchfarms.com.
A few varieties of apples are available now at this farm and orchard, but the peak picking time is the third week of September. There are 64 varieties of apples to choose from, and picking runs through October — weather and supply depending. Hours are 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays through December. The cost is $5 per person to pick plus priced-per-pound of whatever you pick. There are lots of other fruit and vegetables for you-pick or purchase plus jams and jellies in the farm store. Credit cards are accepted.
GOULD CIDER MILL: 2S230 Green Road, Elburn, Ill., (630) 365-2233.
This mill doesn’t offer you-pick, but you can watch as cider is made from a 110-year-old mill. Apples will be for sale beginning Sept. 7. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends only. There is also fresh cider, honey, gourds, squash and crafts.
HEINZ ORCHARD: 1050 Crest Road, Green Oaks, Ill., (847) 770-3449, heinzorchard.com.
Orchard owners are shooting for a mid-September opening date and encourage people to check the website or call for exact ripening times and more information. The orchard is open from 10 a.m.-
4 p.m. Fridays-Sunday. Strollers and wagons are welcome. There is no admission or parking fees. The site is cash only.
HOMESTEAD ORCHARD: 11802 Charles Road, Woodstock, Ill., (815) 338-7443, homesteadorchard.net.
This orchard is open now from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays through the last week of October. There are 23 varieties of apples available for you-pick plus honey from beehives on the property, Amish jams, jellies, salsa and more. Check the ripening chart on the website to see if a favorite variety is ready to pick. The site is cash only. No dogs are allowed.
HONEY HILL ORCHARD: 11747 Waterman Road, Waterman, Ill., (815) 264-3337, honeyhillorchard.com.
This family-owned and family-run orchard was started as a hobby in 1965. Now the original orchard location has 2,100 apple trees with an additional 500 trees at a second farm location. The orchard opens for picking at the end of August. The hours are 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. In addition to several varieties of you-pick apples there is a country store, bakery, snack shop, petting zoo and straw pyramid. No dogs, smoking or food are allowed. Only cash or check is accepted for you-pick.
JONAMAC ORCHARD: 19412 Shabbona Road, Malta, Ill., (815) 825-2158, jonamacorchard.com.
The orchard will open for you-pick Labor Day Weekend, which is also when the corn maze opens. Activities for children include a barnyard, petting zoo, pedal trikes, an apple train, a jumping pillow and am apple launcher. Hours are 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily through October. Wheelchairs, wagons and strollers are allowed. No pets are allowed. Cash, check, Visa and MasterCard are accepted.
KNUTSON’S COUNTRY HARVEST: 13550 Townhouse Road, Newark, Ill., (815) 695-5905, knutsonsharvest.com.
Apples are ready for picking and the season runs through October. Check the website for ripening dates and other events on the farm. Hours are from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Cash, check, debit cards, Visa and MasterCard are accepted.
KUIPERS FAMILY FARM: 1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park, Ill., (815) 827-5200, kuipersfamilyfarm.com.
The you-pick season opens Aug. 24 with more than 20 varieties of apples available. The hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. You-pick apple picking is on weekends only. Admission is $9 per person for you-pick and includes a hayride and a 1/4 peck bag of apples. One can purchase an additional peck bag of apples for $15. The you-pick season generally runs through early October. Check the website for coupons to the orchard shop and information on other activities and promotions. Strollers, wagons and backpacks are not permitted in the orchard. Cash and credit cards are accepted. No pets are allowed.
LANG’S ORCHARD: 17411 Secor Road, Woodstock, Ill., (815) 568-7547, langsorchard.com.
The orchard opens Sept. 7 for you-pick with Gala, McIntosh and Ruby Jon (a Jonathan). The hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Honeycrisp will be pre-picked. More varieties will mature as the season progresses, culminating Oct. 5 with Braeburn, Blushing Gold, Winesap and Granny Smith. The orchard also sells natural fruit spreads and salsa in the store. Cash is preferred but credit cards are accepted.
MEADOWMOOR ORCHARD: 1517 N. Illinois 47, Woodstock, Ill., (847) 848-2847, meadowmoororchard.com.
This pick-your-own orchard, once the site of the Meadowmoor Hunt Club, is open weekends until Labor Day, and then from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays. Admission and parking are free and customers pay for what they pick. Customers can pick Honeycrisp apples as well.
MORE THAN DELICIOUS ORCHARD: 9905 Thompson Road, Woodstock, Ill., (815) 575-9650, morethandelicious.com.
The orchard opens Sept. 6, and hours are from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and Columbus Day. Apples will be available for purchase by the bushel, half bushel or peck. Windfall apples, which are apples that have been picked off the ground and are generally clean with a few bruises, are also available. These apples are good for applesauce, juice or cider. New for 2013: The orchard is moving to primarily credit card transactions. Check the website for recipes and frequently asked questions.
PRAIRIE SKY ORCHARD: 4914 N. Union Road, Union, Ill., (815) 923-4834, prairieskyorchard.com.
The orchard has more than 1,000 trees with varieties such as Honeycrisp, which ripen in early September, to Golden Delicious, which ripen in early October. In between there are Gala, Cortlands and Jonagolds. The orchard will be open Aug. 31 through October. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Wagons and strollers are allowed with some wagons available on-site. Cash, check, Discover, Visa and MasterCard are accepted.
PINE APPLE ACRES: 41W651 Powers Road, Huntley, Ill., (847) 669-3251, www.pineapple-acres.com.
Apple picking will start Sept. 6. Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Empire, Red Delicious and Granny Smiths are grown at this site. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. Admission costs $5 per car. If one buys $35 worth of apples or more, he or she gets a $5 credit. This site is cash or check only.
ROYAL OAK FARM ORCHARD: 15908 Hebron Road, Harvard, Ill., (815) 648-4141, royaloakfarmorchard.com.
The orchard opened in early August with Jonathan apples, and AppleFest runs Sept. 22-Oct. 8. There is also pre-picked produce, a gift shop, a refreshment stand, train rides, a carousel, a country market, a petting zoo and farm animals. Orchard tours also are available. Check the website or call for exact ripening dates and hours. Entertainment tokens cost $2.50 per token. Cash, check, Visa, MasterCard and Discover are accepted.
WOODSTOCK COUNTRY ORCHARD: 17015 Garden Valley Road, Woodstock, Ill., (815) 923-4359, woodstockcountryorchard.com.
A couple of varieties of apples will be available for you-pick beginning Sept. 7. Hours are 10 a.m-2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends. There also are raspberries, maple syrup and honey for sale. This site is cash or check only.
Annie Alleman is a local freelance writer.