Stacey Wallenstein dreads fall. As soon as closed-toe shoes and the smell of pumpkin spice start to surface, the panic sets in.
“Inevitably, someone’s going to bring it up. It’s going to happen,” said Wallenstein, a 43-year-old Long Island mom of three.
The feared event isn’t a dentist appointment or even a mandatory viewing of the film version of “Cats.” It’s supposedly happy, perfectly Instagrammed outings to the orchards.
“Apple-picking sucks,” declared Wallenstein, who kvetched about the autumnal activity on her blog, the Mint Chip Mama. “Can we just drop the charade?”
It wasn’t always this way. Before the brood arrived, she and husband Ross would eagerly don flannel shirts and vests and hit up some quaint farms for Fujis and Galas. They would nibble on roasted corn and apple cider donuts in the great outdoors and wash down their fall eats with a bottle of wine they brought from home. Life was good.
But times have changed. The once-beloved tradition is now an overpriced, overcrowded hellscape for cranky toddlers and sullen teenagers. “You have to find the place, drive there with crazy traffic, wait on line,” said a beleaguered Wallenstein. “[Then] I’m stuck paying premium prices for bags of apples we’ll never eat — it winds up being $5 for every apple we actually eat. It’s 10 times the amount we pay at Trader Joe’s [grocery store].”
Local parents are finally admitting to an uncomfortable autumnal truth: Seasonal outings to apple orchards and pumpkin patches are actually rotten.
“Don’t let the pictures fool you — it’s a miserable experience every single year,” said Upper West Side mom of a 7 and 8-year-old Nataly Antar. “You drive two hours out into the middle of nowhere, walk through rows of apple trees where most of them are mushy, on the ground, or sour and hard . . . then you end up buying 15 pounds of apples — at four times the cost at the supermarket — that you really have no idea what you’re going to do with, just so you can say you went and did it.”
Another issue is the temperatures during the peak picking season — late August through October — aren’t always crisp enough to merit photogenic fall sweaters and vests.
“Why would I spend $5 on a bag of apples at the store, when I can wear warm fall clothes in 88° weather and pay $36 for our family to pick them ourselves?” popular comedian and dad, Simon Holland recently tweeted to his 131,000 followers last month.
“It’s always too hot,” agreed East Harlem mom of three Allison Nayor, adding that transportation issues add to the misery.
“It’s like, ‘We have to carry these pumpkins home on the train?’ ” Plus, it’s not as though you can bake a pie with the average gourd from the patch. “[So] these heavy pumpkins sit in the apartment and rot,” Nayor said.
She thinks she’s off the hook this season with her children, ages 15, 13 and 5.
“This year, the kids didn’t ask to go,” said the relieved mom. “If they don’t bring it up, I’m not going to mention it.”
Farmers have admitted that U-Pick produce is priced at a premium, with good reason. DIY pickers are buying relatively small quantities compared to wholesale operations, so they have to be priced accordingly. Plus, people will pay for the experience, especially after being cooped up in quarantine.
“There is a real satisfaction in picking produce that you’re then going to cook with,” Josh Morgenthau, the owner of Fishkill Farms in the Hudson Valley, recently told Grub Street.
Despite her many reservations — and desperate pleas from her husband – Wallenstein said she’s now actually contemplating a family trip to the orchard.
“My husband said, ‘You’re still going to make me go?’ ” she recalled, noting: “I just want those damn pictures.”