Autumn is our favorite season here in the foothills: crisp air, colorful leaves, occasional dusts of snow – and tons of apples.

Fifty-plus years ago, 16 apple ranchers in the Camino area formed the Apple Hill Growers Association to promote and share their bounty. The organization now has 55 ranchers – and every fall they open their gates to a stream of visitors who drive up not only for apples but for pears, other fruits and baked goods, and to experience some of the bygone fun of farm life.

This year, you’re wearing braces. Is that a bummer?

It’s true both whole apples and whole pears are on the short list of foods people with braces are not supposed to eat. Biting with gusto into a fresh-picked hard fruit or vegetable can loosen or break your braces and set your treatment plan off course.

But braces don’t necessarily mean you have to give up your favorite fruits – nor do they mean you can’t enjoy Apple Hill, or a similar farm outing in your area.

Here are a few cautions:

  • Apples and pears: If you have fixed braces, don’t bite into the whole fruit. Apples and pears are just as tasty sliced thinly before eating. Moreover, this way you can sample more varieties. If you wear Invisalign, you can remove your trays – but you must meet your total daily wearing time.
  • Taffy: This really sticky stuff is delicious but not good for braces – or your teeth at any time you can’t brush after eating it. It’s pure sugar and it adheres on and between everything. Taffy apples and red candy apples are definitely off your food list!
  • Nuts: Small pieces can get caught in your brackets.

What’s left? A lot, as it happens.

Each ranch has its specialties, and regular visitors soon establish their preferences. With or without braces, you can enjoy:

  • Free slices of the many versions of apples and pears grown here
  • Old-world strudel
  • Apple doughnuts and fritters
  • Huge fruit pies of many kinds
  • Sauces, fruit butters, jelly, cider, even wines
  • Fudge
  • Apple milkshakes
  • Down-home lunches such as barbecue and fries
  • Hayrides, pony rides, mazes, games

And if you need a pumpkin for Halloween or a tree for Christmas, you can find those at Apple Hill, too.

It’s true that wearing braces means extra care for your teeth, but braces don’t prevent you from fully enjoying outings with family and friends. If you have Invisalign, you can take the trays out to eat as you normally would, but you should try to brush and floss before you reinsert them. An alternative is to chew sugarless gum for a few minutes to clean particles from your teeth, or at least rinse your mouth with water.

For anyone, enjoying these sweets means taking extra care to clean and floss your teeth as your dentist or orthodontist recommends.

So look forward to your next Apple Hill visit with a sense of adventure! Try sampling new foods compatible with braces. Enjoy activities in the cool fall air. Bask in the ambience of sweet aromas and happy people. Smile. That’s what both Apple Hill and your braces are about.