"We love to do this together. We have come here every year for as long as I can remember," said Susan Napolitano, mother of Maddy, 13, and Jackson, 10. "We come home with about one full bag of apples."
Napolitano, a food blogger for "RealKidsEatSpinach," said she and her children often make desserts from the apples they pick at Blue Jay, and she writes about it and shares recipes on her blog.
"It's a great way to get outside and a great experience for the kids to pick their food right off a tree as opposed to getting them from the grocery store," she said.
"I think we are very lucky to live in an area where we can have this experience of picking our own fruit," Napolitano said.
But if you want to pick your own, you better hit Blue Jay soon, said Chis Seifrit, orchard manager. The apple crop is much smaller this year due to poor weather conditions last winter.
"We had a bitter cold spell here from Feb. 13 to Feb. 14," he said. "It was negative 14 degrees. The buds froze on the trees. They didn't produce any blossoms.
"The blossoms that did get produced didn't get pollinated because there is a seven- to 10-day window that they needed to be pollinated in," he said.
Due to the smaller crop, apple picking is only available at Blue Jay on weekends this fall.
But the smaller crop did not disappoint Heather Boertlein and Richard Fine, who were visiting Blue Jay for the first time. "We filled two bags of apples, with 12 to 14 in each bag," said Fine said of Commack, N.Y.
"We are giving the applies to my mother and mother-in-law, who will make apple pie," Boertlein said. "I also like the doughnuts here. I like getting them hot off the press."
Bethel resident Abbie Mietz, who came with her daughters and friends, just moved to the area from Nebraska.
Mietz said the visit was educational for her children. "They learn about the different kinds of apples and where they come from. Also, it s a great family bonding experience," Mietz said.
Her daughter 10-year-old Macie Mietz agreed "It's fun to go out and find the apples," she said. "I like to eat them, and we make apple crisp with them."
Blue Jay Orchards has been open since 1934. "It was owned by the Josephy family until 1985," said Seifrit. "It used to be a wholesale business. The Patterson family purchased it in 1985 and still own it."
The 120 acres at Blue Jay Orchards includes 90 acres of apple trees. There is also a general store, which sells fresh baked pies, cookies, muffins, apples and apple cider. Pumpkins, which are grown in Bethlehem, are also sold at Blue Jay. There are wagon rides every 18 minutes.
In an average year, Blue Jay can get 4,000 people on a weekend, Seifrit said.
For more information on Blue Jay Orchards, call 203-748-0119 or click here . Blue Jay Orchards is at 125 Plumtrees Road, Bethel.
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