The Great Lakes State is home to a vibrant fruit production industry. For one, it is third in the nation for apple production, with over 7 million apple trees in this state alone. Apples, peaches, plums, berries, and cherries all benefit from the area’s mild climate and long growing season, where frosts come later in autumn and stop earlier in spring. Here’s your guide to picking the fruits of the season in Michigan.
Ripe Areas and Seasons
While fruit farms are plentiful all over the state, there is no better region for fruit growing than the Western region of the Lower Peninsula that runs along Lake Michigan. In particular, the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas in the North are hot spots for fruit-growing and for vineyards due to their mild microclimates created by large bodies of water and steep terrain. Beyond where to go, timing is the key.
- May is the brief season for strawberries in most areas of Michigan.
- June brings blackberries and cherries, which generally last through early July.
- July starts with the two to three week season for black raspberries, but by the end of the month, peaches, blueberries, nectarines, and raspberries come to fruit.
- August continues the latter four fruits, with the arrival of grapes and apples, as well.
- September sees plums ripen, alongside the last gasps of grapes and raspberries, and the height of apple picking season, too.
- Autumn arrives in October, with only apples and plums remaining.
Picking and Storing
Different fruits show different signs of ripeness. They also differ in the best methods for picking and storage; some involve very little work, while others require more care.
- Strawberries are ripe when red; use your forefinger and thumb to twist gently and pull the stem.
- Cherries are picked with the stem but leave the woody spur to produce next year’s fruit.
- Raspberries are ripe when vibrantly colored, firmly plump, and easily picked.
- Blueberries should be blue-black with un-cracked skin. Pick by rolling them off the stem.
- Peaches are ready when the flesh starts to give. Try squeezing gently to find juicier ones.
- For apples, smaller fruits are best because they ripen slower. Look for bright, smooth skin and a fresh smell. To pick, roll the apple up and twist off with the stem attached.
- Plums should be firm with some give. Ripen in a paper bag before storing in the fridge.
Tips for First-Time Pickers
Once you know when and where to go for fruit-picking, it’s important to be prepared for this tasty experience. Here are some key tips for first-time fruit pickers.
- Aim for less busy days during the week to avoid the crowds.
- Choose days when fruit is plentiful, making picking easier.
- Check the farm’s website for updates on the status of blooms and fruits.
- Get clear directions as GPS may have a hard time pinpointing fruit fields or farms.
- Bring containers and cash, as small operations may not provide baskets or accept credit.
- Ask about available amenities like restrooms, especially if you have little kids.