It’s cherry-picking time! Unlike other fruits and vegetables, all the cherries on a single tree ripen at the same time and need to be picked right away for peak freshness. This year, because of a cold snap in spring, pickings may be a little slimmer and the season shorter so act fast if you need a fresh cherry fix. (Always call ahead to make sure picking is available on a particular day, especially towards early July, when the season typically ends.)

photo: The Wu’s Photo Land via Flickr

New York

Lawrence Farms Orchards
Visit Lawrence Farms Orchards for a day out in the country. Bring along your basket to pick sweet (black, red, and white!) or sour cherries. After you’ve collected enough to make a pie or two it’s time to take the kids on a carriage ride around the farm. Stop in and visit the chickens and the goats, and check out the “Little Village” which is small-scale replica of an old fashioned New England farm town.

Good to know: Admission is $3 dollars a person (children under 2 free). Lawrence Farms offers special packages for birthday parties if you’re looking to host a bucolic kid’s celebration.

Where: 306 Frozen Ridge Rd, Newburgh, NY
Phone: 845-562-4268
Hours:  9 a.m – 4 p.m., daily
Online: lawrencefarmsorchards.com
Distance from NYC: 1.5 hours

Ochs Orchard
Take a trip to the scenic Hudson Valley and visit Ochs Orchard. When you’re done picking, stop in at the small petting zoo to see ducks, miniature goats, a Sicilian donkey and a miniature donkey. An on-site farm market sells other in-season fruits and homemade baked goods if you want to take even more bounty home.

Good to know: Ochs serves homemade ice cream from July through October, with many of the flavors made with the orchard’s own fruits. Also, leave your pooch at home, no dogs allowed here.

Where: 4 Ochs Lane, Warwick, NY
Phone: 845-986-1591
Hours:  9 a.m. to 5 p.m., call for days as they change weekly
Online: ochsorchard.net

Distance from NYC: 1.5 hours

Wickham’s Fruit Farm
With 200 acres of fruit, Wickham’s Fruit Farm is one of the larger u-pick farms in the area.  The farm provides containers for your pickings, so all you need to bring is your gang ready to reach! Wickam’s estimates cherries will be available in early July this year, so check their website for when they officially have cherries available.

Good to know: The farm is closed on Sundays.

Where: 28700 Route 25, Cutchogue, NY
Phone: 631-734-6441
Hours:  9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Mon.-Sat.
Online: wickhamsfruitfarm.com

Distance from NYC: 1.75 hours

photo: barnimages.com via Flickr

New Jersey

Terhune Orchards
Terhune Orchards offers up sweet varieties across its two-acre cherry patch. On the weekend, your family can take a wagon ride out to the orchard, but during the week you will have to walk it. Bring your own receptacle or pick up a bag at the farm. After you’re done cherry picking stop in for a visit with the animals or peruse the goods at the farm store.

Good to know: You can monitor Terhune’s Facebook page to check weather conditions and find out when cherry picking will take place. They also have an newsletter to provide updates.

Where:  330 Cold Soil Rd., Princeton, NJ
Phone: 609-924-2310
Hours:  Farm, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Picking Orchard, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., daily
Online: terhuneorchards.com

Distance from NYC: 1 hour

Stoneyfield Orchard
Stoneyfield Orchard features both sweet and sour cherries for picking. Your family can also take advantage of the year-round retail farm stand featuring fresh produce and cider. A family owned and operated orchard, they are kid-friendly and have animals (cows and other farm animals) for children.

Good to know: No credit cards accepted here, so be sure to bring cash or check.

Where:  5 Orchard Street, Belvidere Nj
Phone: 908-475-5209
Hours:  Thursday and Friday (3 pm to dusk), and Saturday (10 am to 6 pm)
Online: stoneyfieldorchard.com

Distance from NYC: 1.5 hours

Battleview Orchards
Battleview Orchards offers some of the best sour cherries in the area. Established in 1908, this orchard is open all year round and features a great country store in addition to its U-pick selection. The orchard also offers senior citizen discount days on Monday and Thursday if grandparents are looking to join in the fun and get a 10% discount!

Good to know: This orchard is cash only and no pets. Call in advance, follow on Facebook or join their e-newsletter for updated timings and availabilities.

Where:  91 Wemrock Road, Freehold, Nj
Phone: 732-462-0756
Hours:  Open Daily, 9am to 6pm
Online: www.battlevieworchards.com

Distance from NYC: 1.5 hours

photo: crossroadsphototeam via flickr

Connecticut

Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm
Visit Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm to pick cherries and  then spend the day in the area participating in outdoor activities such as rafting, horseback riding and fishing. At the farm, you can pick your own cherries, or, if working in the hot sun is not for you, you can buy a bag of fresh cherries already picked for you. Fresh veggies from the farm are also for sale.

Good to know: Bags used for picking must be purchased from Ellsworth.

Where: 461 Cornwall Bridge Rd, Route 4, Sharon, CT
Phone: 860-364-0025
Hours:  Dates and times vary, call to confirm
Online: ellsworthfarm.com

Distance from NYC: 2 hours

Belltown Hill Orchards
Located amongst the scenic hills of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, Belltown Hill Orchards offers u-pick opportunities almost all year long, and even sells pre-cut Christmas trees in December. You’ll find sweet and tart cherries at this family-run farm, as well as fresh baked goods, honey made with the help of the farm’s bees and applesauce in the Belltown store.

Good to know: Call ahead for picking conditions as it is weather and crop dependent. Go earlier in the season for sweet cherries, and later for tart cherries.

Where:  483 Matson Hill Rd., South Glastonbury, CT
Phone: 860-633-2789
Hours:  8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Online: belltownhillorchards.com

Distance from NYC: 2 hours

photo: Benny Mazur via Flickr 

What To Do With All Those Cherries!
You arrive home after a productive day picking and suddenly wonder what to do with your crop! No worries—both sweet and sour cherries freeze well after they have been gently washed, and left to dry thoroughly. You can leave the pits in or take them out, and if you have the space in your freezer, spread them out on a cookie sheet to freeze first before putting them in a bag or container for long-term storage. This makes it easier to pull out a handful or a cup when you need it. Keep the stem attached for storage, and right before eating, remove the stem, wash, and dry, and you’re ready to go.

Both varieties can be used in piesjelliesjamschutneyscobblerscompotescrumbles, and strudels. Sour cherries corner the market on salsa, which can be used to adorn grilled pork or chicken, and the sweet ones can be dropped into cocktails or eaten right away! Don’t forget cherries are also a great source of vitamin A and C as well as other antioxidants and minerals. Enjoy!

Where does you family head for cherry picking? Tell us in the comments below!

— Ilyssa Smith