Touring Capitol Reef during the autumn harvest season is a good travel plan to keep in mind. Autumn is when the apples are ripe on the trees, so there is no better time to head for an orchard, especially one that is located inside a majestic National Park. The Fruita Orchards are located along Highway 24 and next to the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, so they are very easy to access when driving a passenger car. These are old growth mormon Pioneer orchards from the late 1800s grown in a green valley surrounded by towering red rock bluffs, so doing a U-Pick venture simply does not get any better than this!
Finding a real old time orchard is not as easy as it may seem. U-Pick orchards can be found throughout suburban sprawl areas, but often the apples are all plucked due to high demand. Commercial bushel apples are often found for sale as tree ripe apples at roadside fruit stands these days, which is a dubious practice to avoid. It pays to do a little research on where the best fruit picking can be done, because not all orchards are created equal. Pesticide free organic old growth orchards are the most sought after, because this is where heirloom fruit varietals will likely be found.
The Fruita Orchards are old growth and several heirloom pioneer fruit varietals can be found here. Peaches, plums and apples are grown seasonally the natural way on over 1900 fruit trees, so there is plenty to go around. Apricots and cherries are also grown in this old fashioned orchard and pie lovers will certainly be happy with that! Finding the best time to visit so you can gather your favorite fruit is easy to do at the Capitol Reef National Park website, which lists the harvest seasons. All of the courtesies and regulations are listed too.
As a long time career chef, there is nothing more satisfying than finding apples that do not come out of a cardboard box. I have been in many apple orchards before, so I have developed an eye for finding the tree that has the sweetest apples. There are a few really old apple trees in the Fruita Orchard that have some of the sweetest heirloom apples that I have ever tasted. This is a natural orchard, so checking for worms is best to do, but at least there will be no worries about hazardous pesticides.
There is nothing better than breaking camp early in the morning at Capitol Reef just to pick a few apples for breakfast. The way the rules go at this National Park U-Pick orchard, what you eat inside the orchard is free and what you carry out you pay for with the honor system. Eating a couple of sweet heirloom pioneer apples in the Fruita Orchards is more than enough to inspire good memories that will last a lifetime!
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