Check out them apples! Down the road from a well-known orchard is a quaint little place called Waters Orchard. Follow the narrow road enveloped in trees until you come to a residential area. For two months out of the year, Waters Orchard open their fruit garden to apple lovers. While many orchards today charge admission or include activities beside pick-your-own fruit, Waters Orchards’ business is strictly apples and nothing else.
Susan Butler should know a thing or two about apples. After all, her parents started nearby Butlers Orchard where she and her siblings managed the family business. Susan, a 2nd generation farmer, said “I wanted to slow down and get back to my first love…apples.” Susan and her husband Washington often visit Europe researching different types of apples. They specifically harvest dwarf trees so families can easily reach, twist and pluck their favorite fruit. Apple lovers can unite from September to October when Waters Orchard opens their 94-acre garden with sixteen varieties from tart to sweet and everything in between.
After parking, walk to the tent where friendly employees highlight the apples currently being offered for picking. The prices show the estimated number of pounds of apples and the number of guests covered by the fee. A half peck, which is $15, yields 5-6 pounds of fruit and includes up to two people entering the orchard. A peck cost $22 for 11-12 pounds (up to 4 entries). A half bushel yields 20-24 pounds of apples for $38 covers up to 6 entries. I didn’t see staff being strict on the number of people entering the orchard per bag size. Our family of three purchased a half peck, but I wished we had gone with a bigger bag because some apples have a long shelf life. Cash is the only form of payment accepted, but they also have an ATM on site.
Four types of apples were available during our visit: Jonagold, Florina Querina, Crimson Crisp and Rising Sun Fuji (an early Fuji selection). I was impressed as I had never heard the French variety Florina Querina. Also new to me was the Crimson Crisp which is more sweet than tart and packs a nice crunch. Here’s some interesting facts about Waters Orchard. They coat their apples with Kaolin clay to prevent sunburn and discourage insects from feasting on the fruit. The rain washes it clean before the picking begins. Compost buckets are set up to discard unwanted apples. Gnats and bees are heavily present. I even caught a honeybee trying to take a bite out of my half-eaten deliciousness.
On weekends, a nice wagon takes guests on a smooth ride through the orchard. Otherwise, you can walk the 10 minutes up the path, depending on which apples you desire. My family ended up hopping on the wagon to find Jonagold and Crimson Crisp types, but later found the Florina Querina and Rising Sun Fuji apples right by the entrance. While my personal favorite is Gala, which was not being offered, the Crimson Crisp has a fantastic flavor. As the season gets busier, fans of Waters Orchard will be picking their favorite Pink Lady and Shizuka apples.
As if Waters Orchard couldn’t be any greater than their bounty of fruit, they help out the community. After the harvest season is over, they donate leftover apples to DC Central Kitchen and other area food banks.
Picnic tables are scattered throughout the fields. There is a portable potty and with coolers of water for those warmer days.
The orchard is open rain or shine Fridays 12 to 5 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, they will also be open September 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Molloy.