Apple picking season is right around the corner, time to brush up on how to tell when apples are ripe and ready to pick.

fall apples, variety unknown – Manitoba

I know it’s alarming when apples start dropping, but having several apples fall before they are actually ripe for picking is normal. Do not be alarmed and feel that you need to harvest the entire tree right away. In fact, not all of your apples will be ready at the same time. Typically apples along the outer edges of the tree will ripen before those towards the center of the tree.

Ideally, you would pick apples on more than one day, covering a span of one to two weeks. Picking in this manner will ensure you get consistently ripe apples, but it is not necessarily the most efficient way of picking.

If you’d like to have one large pick in order to make juice, apples sauce, preserves or confectioneries, it’s okay to have a mix of overripe, underripe and just right apples. For this type of picking, you want to pick when the majority of apples are perfectly ripe.

Goodland apples – Manitoba

Here are five tips from the Prairie Fruit Cookbook on how to tell if your apples are ripe for picking.

1. Variety

Knowing the variety of apple you have can help you narrow down when you should start to consider whether or not your apples need picking. Apples and crab apples can typically be classified as early summer (July to mid August), mid-summer (mid-August to early September) or fall apples (mid-September to October).

If you don’t know the variety, no problem, there are plenty of other ways to judge ripeness. Just don’t be swayed by whether or not your neighbours are picking their apple tree. You may have a different variety and just because they’re picking, doesn’t mean you should!

Start keeping tabs on your apple tree and soon you’ll get a sense of when your apples are typically ready to harvest. Although, some years there can be up to 3 to 4 week differences in harvest times.

Fall apples, variety unkown – Manitoba

Did you know that some apples are best when picked after a frost? You bet! These red fall apples (variety may be a Haralson or Frostbite from the Univeristy of Minnesota) are super sweet and store really well, but aren’t harvested until mid-October.
These Goodland apples are often ready towards late August. They should be yellow with a blush of red.

Goodland Apples – Manitoba

These rescue crab apples are one of the first to ripen in early August. The ones here are over ripe and have become grainy, but still good for juicing.

Rescue crab apples – early summer Manitoba

2. Color

Look carefully at the color of your apples, especially the base or ground color – it may be green, creamy or yellow. Watch it change as the apples mature and wait for the entire apple to change. Unless you have a green apple variety like Granny Smith, most apples will turn a softer shade of green or even a creamy yellow when they’re fully ripe.

Here’s what our Prairie Sensation apples look like in early July. They’re a good size and have the start of a red blush, but the base color is much too green.

Prairie Sensation – not ripe

In late August last year, this same apple variety looked like this. Quite a difference, but if you’re not patient enough, you’d miss out on this transformation and would assume you have a tart green apple instead of the sweet delicious red apple you could enjoy if you wait.

Prairie Sensation – ripe

3. Ease of Separation from Tree

Prairie Sensation – Manitoba

Ripe apples come off a tree quite easily – they don’t need to be tugged or pulled. Simply hold the bottom of the apple, lift it against the stem and twist. If it doesn’t come off easily, it’s not ripe.

4. Flavor

Unless you have a crab apple or a tart apple variety, your apples should not be sour and make you make a face like my boy did when I asked him to “taste test” our unripe apples! It’s amazing how much sweeter your apples will become with a couple of days of sunshine.

But don’t wait too long! If you’re apples seem mealy, they’re over ripe.

5. Pip Color

Pick an apple and slice it open to see what color the pips or seeds are. A ripe apple, no matter what size or variety, will have dark brown pips. Here’s the pips in one of our apples that fell off the tree mid-July. Notice that one seed is just starting to turn brown while the two beside it are still white. Even though the apple fell off the tree, it is no where near being ripe enough to pick.

Keep testing and tasting your apples, after a couple of seasons, you’ll know just what to look for.

In the mood to pick some apples, but don’t have your own apple tree? Check out Fruit Share or similar fruit rescuing organizations throughout Manitoba, Canada and the US that match up people interested in picking fruit with people who have too much fruit in their back yard. Pick, share and enjoy the bounty!

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

Growing Together: How to tell when homegrown apples are ripe for the picking

Homegrown apples, like Honeycrisp, grown in states like North Dakota and Minnesota are often higher quality than fruit from other apple-growing regions because the cool fall weather favors the accumulation of sugar and flavors within the fruit.

But how can you tell when apples are ready to pick? Each apple cultivar ripens during a fairly consistent period, sometime between August and October. Even if we aren’t sure what kind of apple we have, there are clues to tell their ripeness.

Here are five ways to tell if apples are ready to harvest:

  1. Apples turn red long before they are ripe, so redness isn’t the best indicator. Instead, examine the “ground color,” which in most apple types changes from green to creamy white or yellowish, especially near the depression around the stem of the fruit.
  2. Although it’s normal for a few immature apples to drop during the summer, a steady drop in late summer or fall indicates ripeness. Apple fruits develop a natural abscission layer between stem and twig, which allows apples to drop when ripe.
  3. Test an apple by slicing it in half. The seeds of a ripe apple are dark black or brown and shiny. Seeds in an unripe apple are light tan to brown.
  4. Sample an apple. If you like the taste, the apples can be harvested. For top quality, most cultivars should be left on the tree until fully mature. Apples that ripen early in the season should be harvested promptly, as some tend to become mushy if left on the tree.
  5. If the name of the apple is known, check the average ripening date for that cultivar, which is fairly consistent.

To make things even easier, here are the average ripening dates and storage lengths of our region’s common apple cultivars:

  • Beacon: mid- to late August.
  • State Fair: mid- to late August (keeps in refrigerated storage two to four weeks).
  • Hazen: late August (stores two to four weeks).
  • Kinderkrisp: late August (stores two to four weeks).
  • Zestar: late August to early September (stores six to eight weeks).
  • Red Baron: mid-September (stores four to five weeks).
  • Prairie Magic: mid-September (stores four to five weeks).
  • Sweet Sixteen: mid- to late September (stores five to eight weeks).
  • Honeycrisp: late September (stores seven months).
  • Haralson and Haralred: late September through early October (stores four to five months).
  • Frostbite: Late September to mid-October (stores three to four months).
  • SnowSweet: mid-October (stores two months).
  • Fireside and Connell Red: mid-October (stores four months).

Care must be taken when picking fruit. Grasp the apple in your palm and give a slight twist while lifting upward to detach the stem from the twig. Be careful not to pull the fruiting spur off the tree, which is the little twig to which the apple’s stem is attached. That’s where next year’s fruiting buds are already preformed.

Gently set apples into containers as they can bruise easily, decreasing storage life.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or call 701-241-5707.

Harvesting and Storing Apples

In order to obtain the highest quality fruit, apples must be harvested at the proper stage of maturity. Once harvested, proper storage is necessary to maximize storage life.

The harvest period for apples varies from one variety to another. For example, Jonathan apples are normally harvested in mid to late September. The harvest season for Red Delicious apples is normally late September to early October. However, the harvest period for apple varieties is strongly influenced by weather conditions during the growing season. (This year most apple varieties are maturing about 10 days earlier than normal because of our early spring.) Gardeners, therefore, should base the harvest time on the maturity of the apples rather than a specific calendar date.

There are several indicators of apple maturity. Mature apples are firm, crisp, juicy, well- colored, and have developed the characteristic flavor of the variety. Red color alone is not a reliable indicator of maturity. Red Delicious apples, for example, often turn red before the fruit are mature. Fruit harvested too early are astringent, sour, starchy, and poorly flavored. Apples harvested too late are soft and mushy.

When harvesting apples, pick and handle the fruit carefully to prevent unnecessary damage. Sort through the apples during harvest. Remove and promptly use bruised or cut apples. Also, remove apples which exhibit insect and disease problems. Separate the apples by size. Use the largest apples first as they don’t store as well as the smaller fruit.

Once harvested and sorted, store the undamaged apples immediately. The temperature and relative humidity during storage are critical for maximum storage life. Proper storage conditions for apples are a temperature near 32Å¡F and a relative humidity between 90 and 95 percent. Apple varieties, such as Red Delicious, stored under optimum conditions may be stored up to 3 to 5 months. Apples stored at a temperature of 50Å¡F will spoil two to three times faster than those stored at 32Å¡F. If the humidity during storage is low, apples will dehydrate and shrivel.

Small quantities of apples may be placed in perforated polyethylene (plastic) bags and stored in the refrigerator. Perforated plastic bags maintain a high relative humidity, while they prevent the accumulation of excess moisture inside the bags. Apples may also be stored in unperforated polyethylene bags. Do not tightly seal the unperforated bags. Simply fold over the ends of the bags after the fruit has cooled down. Golden Delicious apples store best in polyethylene bags because of their tendency to dehydrate and shrivel. Most other apple varieties also store well in polyethylene bags.

Storage sites for large quantities of apples include a second refrigerator, cellars, unheated outbuildings, or the garage. Place the apples in polyethylene bags or plastic-lined boxes. The apples should be moved from unheated storage facilities prior to extremely cold weather as storage temperatures may drop well below freezing. Apples will freeze when temperatures drop below 30Å¡F. Frozen apples deteriorate rapidly once thawed.

If you have more apples than can be properly stored, the surplus can be dried, frozen, or canned.

This article originally appeared in the September 15, 2000 issue, p. 112.

Nectarine Harvest Season: Tips On Picking Nectarines

I’m a picky fruit eater; if it isn’t just so, I won’t eat it. Nectarines happen to be one of my favorite fruits, but it can be hard to tell the exact perfect time to pick them. When is the best time to pick a nectarine and how to harvest nectarines? Let’s find out.

Nectarine Harvest Season

Knowing exactly when to pick a nectarine isn’t as simple as looking at the calendar. Nectarine harvest season runs anywhere from midsummer to mid-autumn, depending upon the cultivar and USDA growing zone. So what are some of the characteristics of ripeness that will indicate it is time for nectarine tree harvesting?

How to Harvest Nectarines

Nectarines can be picked when they are close to being ripe and then ripened indoors in a brown paper bag or on the counter. That said, there is no comparison to picking a nectarine, perfectly ripe, still warm from the sun and immediately sinking your teeth into it.

Unlike apples and pears, nectarines do not improve their sugar content once they are picked, so you get but one chance and you want the fruit to be perfectly ripe for optimal flavor. But how do you tell if it’s time for nectarine tree harvesting? Well, some of it is trial and error. There are certain things like color, heft, firmness and aroma that are good indicators of ripeness.

Look for fruit that is still firm but with a slight give. The background color of the fruit should be yellow with blushes of red mottling the peel, no traces of green should be visible. White-fleshed nectarines will have a background color of white.

The fruit should be filled out and look to be full sized. The heady tell-tale ambrosial aroma of ripe nectarine should be evident.

Finally, the fruit should slip easily from the tree. What does that mean? You should be able to lightly grasp the fruit and with the gentlest of twists release the fruit from the tree. If the tree doesn’t want to let go easily, it is telling you to hold your horses.

It may take a little practice, but soon you will be an old hand at picking nectarines. If all else fails, you can always try the taste test. Bite into a nectarine that you think is ripe. If the fruit is sweet, you have met with success. If not, then it wasn’t quite ready yet.

Peaches, Plums, Nectarines: When to Harvest

Don’t overwater. Johnson notes that most home gardeners tend to overwater their fruit trees, especially as fruits mature. His research reveals that reduced watering four to six weeks before harvest results in smaller, but tastier, fruits. A gradual reduction in the amount of water a tree receives during this period will increase the fruits’ sugar content without affecting texture. And more than anything else, sugar content correlates to the perception of flavorful fruit.

Reduce water carefully, however. If you overdo it, instead of improving your fruit, you’ll stress the fruit, perhaps even the tree, and diminish overall fruit quality.

Don’t hurry to harvest. For the best flavor, leave fruits on the branches as long as possible to maximize the ratio of sugar to acid. The fruit is at its peak ripeness when the flesh yields to gentle pressure.

Pick from the top. For the highest quality fruits, go straight to the top of the tree. When Kearney researchers evaluated sugar content, acidity, size, and appearance of fruits picked from various parts of the trees, they discovered that the fruits at the top and outer edges of the trees not only matured earliest but were the largest and most flavorful.

Shila Patel is a former managing editor at National Gardening.

Photography by National Gardening Association.

How to grow peaches and nectarines

Delicious as they are, the flavour of imported peaches and nectarines can’t compare with the ripe fruits you pick straight from the tree in your own garden. They need lots of sun, though, ideally in a pot on a sheltered patio or trained against a sunny wall.

Advertisement Peaches and nectarines flower and fruit on one-year-old shoots, so remove as much of the old growth as possible.

Growing peaches and nectarines

Soaking bare-roots before planting

Planting peach and nectarines

Bare-rooted trees should be planted on a mild day any time from November to March. Container-grown trees can go in at any time.

Although they’re hardy in the UK (apart from the far north), the blossom and young fruits are vulnerable to frost. Grow your trees against a south- or west-facing wall, or in a pot, which you can move under cover for winter.

Peaches and nectarines will tolerate most soils, but before planting dig in plenty of well-rotted garden compost or manure. If you have clay soil, improve drainage by filling the bottom of the planting hole with rubble. Plant your tree so the top of the rootball sits level with the soil’s surface and the stem is at least 20cm away from the wall. Prepare a framework of wires ready to tie in the stems as they grow.

To plant a tree in a pot, fill the bottom with pea gravel (to improve drainage and stability), then fill with a soil-based compost. Leave a gap between the compost and top of the pot for easy watering. Never let compost dry out.

Pollinating peach tree blossom with a soft brush

How to care for your peach and nectarine crop

Water regularly, especially when fruits are forming. At blossom time, sprinkle a general fertiliser, such as pelleted poultry manure, around the tree. Follow with a mulch of garden compost or well-rotted manure.

Even though peaches are self-fertile you can encourage fruiting by hand-pollinating flowers using a soft brush and misting with water. When fruits are cherry-sized, thin out to one per cluster.

When the fruits are swelling, apply a high-potash liquid fertiliser, such as tomato feed, once a week.

After harvesting comes pruning. Peaches and nectarines flower and fruit on one-year-old shoots, so remove as much of the old growth as possible. Cut back a fruit stem to where a new shoot has grown, then tie in the new growth as a replacement.

How to harvest peaches and nectarines

Peach and nectarine fruits are ripe when they have coloured up and feel slightly soft. They should come off the branch with a gentle twist.

Ripe peaches

How to store peaches and nectarines

Peaches and nectarines bruise easily and don’t store well. You can freeze peaches and nectarines, but when defrosted they should be used for cooking.

Preparation and uses

Delicious eaten raw, added to fruit salads or poached in wine with a little sugar.

A discoloured, shrivelled and misshapen peach tree leaf, due to peach leaf curl

Peaches and nectarines: problem solving

Control aphids and red spider mite with an insecticidal soap. Peach leaf curl is a fungus that affects the emerging leaves in spring. It causes red blistering and distortion. Covering trees with polythene in late winter and early spring will stop rain splashes spreading infection.

Peaches versus nectarines

Both of these fruit have identical growing needs, but fuzzy-skinned peaches are slightly hardier than their smoother-skinned relations. Nectarines grow best when they’re trained against a warm wall or fence, in a sunny, sheltered position.

Peaches ripening on a branch

Great peach and nectarine varieties to grow


  • ‘Avalon Pride’ – pink flowers and juicy fruits from early August. It is said to be resistant to leaf curl disease
  • ‘Duke of York’ – the red-skinned, yellow-fleshed fruits ripen from early summer
  • ‘Peregrine’ – heavy crops of delicious fruits with red skin and white flesh, in mid-August. Mildew resistant


  • ‘Lord Napier’ – large crimson-flushed fruits with sweet and juicy white flesh, ripening in early August
  • ‘Pineapple’ – large orange-flushed fruits with yellow flesh, pick early September

Small is beautiful


  • Dwarf ‘Terrace’ fruits – such as peach ‘Terrace Amber’ and ‘Terrace Ruby’ are ideal for growing in pots. They’re compact and slow growing, so are ideal for those with limited space

How to Ripen Pears

Pears are my latest fruit addiction. I love this fruit for its unique, grainy texture and sweet, juicy flavor. In fact, combining a ripe pear with gourmet cheese and crackers has turned into an easy and tasty appetizer (and admittedly, sometimes a dinner) at my house.

The most common question we get from people about pears is “how do you ripen them?” Indeed, ripening a pear can be tricky due to the fact that most pears do not change color as they ripen, and pears are typically close to – but not quite ripe – when you purchase them at the store.

Growers harvest pears once they are mature, but in the pear world, maturity means the fruit is not fully ripened. If growers allowed pears to ripen on the tree, the core of the fruit would breakdown, causing an unappetizing mushy or mealy texture when they arrived at grocery stores (and no one wants that!). Harvesting pears at the right pressures leads to fruit that will ripen to good quality. At Stemilt, we do just that and cool them immediately after harvest in order to deliver premium pears to your stores.

In this post, I’ll answer the common pear ripening question by showing you two methods for ripening pears at home. I’ll also share a simple strategy for determining when a pear is ripe and ready to eat.

How to Ripen Pears: In a Brown Paper Bag

If the pears you brought home from the store are still a little hard and not quite ripe, then you might want to try ripening them in a bag at room temperature. Cold temperatures slow down the ripening process, so storing ripe pears in the refrigerator is the best way to maintain quality. Like bananas and avocados, pears naturally release ethylene gas (a ripening hormone) as they ripen. Placing the pears in a brown paper bag keeps ethylene close to the fruit and speeds up ripening. Any bag would work, but paper is preferred over plastic as it allows the fruit to breathe.

How To Ripen A Pear With Other Ethylene-Producing Fruits

Another way to ripen pears is to place them next to fruits like bananas, avocados, or apples (perhaps in a fruit bowl). These fruits also give off ethylene gas, and the extra exposure to ethylene induces ripening in pears. To really speed up the pear ripening process, combine two ethylene producing fruits (such as bananas + pears) in a paper bag and leave the bag at room temperature. Don’t forget to check the pears often for ripeness if you use this method.

When Are Pears Ripe?

No matter which method of ripening you choose, you’ll want to know how to tell when a pear is ripe and ready to eat. Some pears, like the Bartlett variety, change color as they ripen (Bartlett goes from green to yellow), but many other pears, including d’Anjou, do not. To determine ripeness, hold the pear in the palm of your hand and then gently apply pressure into the neck of the pear with your thumb. Once the skin of the pear gives to that pressure (even if it gives slightly), it is ripe and ready to eat.

There is definitely a fine line when it comes to pear ripening (they can quickly go from underripe to overripe), and so it’s important to check the neck for ripeness daily, especially when you are following a method that speeds up ripening. Most pears should be ready to eat within a few days after purchase. Be sure to place ripe pears that you are not using in the refrigerator to maximize freshness.

Share with us! What is your preferred method for ripening pears? Is it different from the two methods described above?

Live farm fresh

How to Pick & Ripen a Pear

We’re harvesting some pears here at the farmstead and it got me to thinking about the “perfect” pear.

You know the kind…

As your teeth sink into it, the sweet juice runs down your chin and the texture is “just right” – not mealy or too hard.

Many times, that perfect pear is elusive…at least it was for me for most of my life.

But that is because until recently, I never really understood how a pear ripens.

It took having a pear tree of my own for me to learn how it all works.

In this post, I share some tips for picking the perfect pear (on the tree or at the grocery store) and how to get it to ripen to perfection.

How Pears Ripen:

Unlike other fruit, pears do NOT ripen properly when left on the tree.

They are one of the only fruits that must be picked unripe and allowed to ripen off the tree.

If left on the tree, a pear will over-ripen from the inside out and the center will be mush and rotten before the outside gets soft.

If you harvest them yourself, pears must be picked when they are within that magic window of time of being mature but unripe.

Mature means they are fully grown and staying on the tree further begins the breakdown process.

Ripe means the flesh is softened and the sugars are high.

So, you pick when the pear is mature (not ripe) and let it ripen off the tree.

The only exception to this is the Asian pear which does ripen on the tree and can be eaten immediately at harvest. So this post is about all other pears – not Asian.

How To Harvest Your Own Pears:

If you grow pears yourself, how do you know when they are mature enough to harvest?

It is actually pretty easy.

When a pear is ready to come off the tree, it will do so when you slightly twist or tip the fruit’s stem.

You simply hold the pear in your hand and rotate it slightly (1/4 turn) and if it comes right off…it’s ready.

Or you hold the pear in your hand and tip it horizontally and it will snap off if it is ready.

If it does not come off easily, you move on to the next fruit and give that one more time on the tree.

Don’t be tempted to pick them immature. They will not have the best texture or flavor.

How to Ripen a Homegrown Pear:

What I never knew (before having a tree of my own) was that many commercial pears are put into cold storage immediately after harvest before going to market.

I will explain why below, but first know…

This cold storage tip is NOT what you should do with store bought pears. A purchased pear should never go into the refrigerator. It should ripen on the counter because it is brought to market ready for you to take home, ripen and eat.

Cold storage is only something you would do if you are harvesting from your own tree.

Growers put pears into cold temperatures to not only give themselves more time to get the harvest to market, but ALSO to help with the ripening process on certain varieties.

Different pear varieties prefer different amounts of cold storage. European varieties can take the longest in cold storage and Asian pears require none.

So if you own a pear tree, you can briefly cool down any variety and it may help (won’t hurt) in giving you a nice ending texture/flavor.

Cold storage can be as simple as a week in a cool basement, the refrigerator or other cold area of the house.

For home cool down, 40 degrees is ideal. (I use a spare refrigerator adjust for storage.)

But here’s the thing…

If you don’t have a place for cold storage, don’t worry about it! Your homegrown pears will still ripen at room temperature.

The cold storage just gives you the most ideal and most consistent results. But it is not required to have a good pear.

After cold storage of homegrown pears, you can move on to ripening the pear on the counter as I have described below.

Choosing a Pear at the Store:

Pears at the store or farmer’s market should be picked firm and with the least amount of bruising.

In other words, you are picking out a mature pear that is unripe – just like it was at harvest time.

It is rare to find a pear ready for eating at the store. Most will still be hard as a rock.

You should expect to buy them in the firm state and bring them home to ripen.

How to Ripen a Pear at Home:

Ripening a pear can be as simple as sitting it on the counter top and checking it every day.

If you want to speed up the process, set a few apples or bananas next to the pears. The apples/bananas will give off ethylene gas which hastens the ripening process.

If you REALLY want to speed up the process, place the pear in a paper bag with an apple or banana and it will go even faster.

Do not refrigerate the pear until it reaches full ripeness.

Once ripe, you may place the pear in the refrigerator for a day or two to hold it at that state until you are ready to eat it.

Testing for Ripeness:

A pear is ripe when you can press on the flesh of the neck and it gives a little.

The Pear Bureau has a little fact sheet that gives more details.

Resource Links:

Filoli – PDF of Growing & Ripening Pears

Extension Service Sheet on Growing & Ripening Pears

Pear Bureau – USA

So Tell Me:

What is your favorite pear variety?

Do you preserve any pears or do you only eat them fresh?

Let me know in the comments below…

How to Ripen Pears – Kitchen Hack

Most store-bought pears will be firm and often need to be ripened a little before eating. But what is the best way to ripen pears at home?

For starters, make sure to select firm, unblemished pears with zero bruises or torn skin for best results. Also, avoid refrigerating unripe pears as it can stunt their ability to ripen.

Here are our three principle methods for ripening pears:

The slow method: Kitchen counter

Pears will happily ripen on your kitchen counter in 4-7 days. Place them in a bowl and check on them regularly to see when they’re ready to eat.

The faster method: Paper bag

Place the pears in a paper bag and leave on the counter to ripen. This method should take about 2-4 days to ripen the pears. The natural gases produced by the pears will become trapped in the bag and help ripen the fruit faster. To avoid spoilage, check on the pears every day and refrain from using plastic bags that won’t breathe and can cause the fruit to go bad.

The fastest method: Paper bag and ripe apples

Place the pears in a paper bag, throw in a couple of ripe apples and set aside. Ethylene gas will naturally be emitted by the ripe apples, causing the pears to ripen much faster in 1-3 days. Once again, make sure to check on the pears regularly to avoid any spoilage and do not use a plastic bag.

Pears of all shapes and colors are waiting for us to pull out our oven mitts and get cooking. And, like any fruit, there is the right variety for every job. But before we explore the many virtues of each variety, lets talk about how to properly care for your pears so you make the most of your fall harvest. Want to learn more about our many pear varieties, their unique attributes and best uses? Visit our blog post, All About Pears!


Cook the apples, let them cool fully and then pour into freezer bags and then place in the bottom of the freezer. Frozen apples will keep in the freezer for 4 months or so if unsweetened and six to eight months if sweetened.

We pack ours into two portion sizes, 120g (4oz) and 240g (8oz), with the plastic storage bag labeled. These are good sizes for a variety of cooking uses.

To store apples long term without freezing, first identify a cool place which is relatively dry and dark. Unheated garages are a good choice. Those conditions are often mentioned as being important for storing apples but just as important is to choose an area which doesn’t have changes in temperature. Apples will not store well if the temperature is going up and down frequently.

Take a trip to your local greengrocer and ask for some free low-sided cardboard boxes, they will have lots of them and will happily offload a few to you for free. Place the apples in the containers so that they are not touching. You can use paper wrapping to separate the apples but it’s best not to cover them completely. Don’t stack one apple on top of another. When in storage treat them gently and avoid bruising them.

If you store more than one variety then store different varieties in different containers and label clearly. The cardboard containers can be stacked but not too high – three or four layers at the most. The reason for this is that a quick weekly inspection will be needed to remove any apples which show signs of deterioration.


There are many ways of doing this but our favourite for speed, convenience, long term storage and taste is to stew them with a little sugar.

Wash the apples in water first then peel them. Cut them into quarters removing the core and any pips you see. Only peel as many apples as you can fit into your largest pan. Have a bowl of cold water to hand before starting to peel and quarter the apples. After you prepare each apple drop the quarters into to the cold water to prevent them browning whilst peeling the remaining apples.

Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the large pan, add the apples (but not the cold water) and sprinkle in sugar to taste. One level table spoon of sugar to a kilo of apples does us fine, your taste may require more or less. Different apple varieties require more or less sugar so don’t add too much sugar at the cooking stage. More sugar can be added when they are defrosted if you want.

Cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for an hour or so until the apples are softened. Stir every ten minutes to stop any apples sticking to the base of the pan and just to check that there is enough moisture. Leave the apples to cool thoroughly in the covered pan. Pour into plastic freezer bags, flatten them for ease of storage and then place in the bottom of the freezer.

Defrost the apples before using them. This will take around 2 to 3 hours in a kitchen or about half that time if you place the bag in a bowl of lukewarm water.

Apple Ripening and Storage

  • Introduction
  • What Variety of Trees Should I Plant?
  • Squeezing All This Into Your Back Yard
  • Preparing the Soil and Planting
  • Establishing the Trees and the Initial Pruning
  • Summer Pruning
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Apple Ripening and Storage (this page)

How Do I Know My Apples Are Ripe?

You are indeed fortunate when a fruit source is actively growing just outside your door. Not only are you able to access a healthy food source, you may also choose to eat that food when it suits you. Apples on the same tree ripen gradually, generally from the sunnier areas to the shady side and from top to bottom, so you can be very selective and harvest only those that are at the peak of their excellence. If you have no harvesting experience or if you are trying out a new variety, a little trial and error will give you all the information you need to determine when to lift that apple off the tree. And that, by the way, is an excellent method of determining when many apples are ready for picking, just lift the fruit sideways. Many apples, if they are ready for harvest, will then detach from the bud. If an apple puts up a fight, leave it there. Try not to pull the bud off the branch because that is where next year’s apples will come from.

At this point it may appear that the little stem is just holding the apple to the tree and is waiting to dry enough to let go, but do an experiment. Note the difference in temperature of a just-picked apple to one that’s been off the tree for some time. There’s a lot going on inside that skinny brown stem.

Do Apples Ripen After Picking?

Apples continue to ripen after they leave the tree. When fully ripe they become mealy. Many people prefer to eat them prior to that, and some prefer them even more green. The taste of an apple changes as it matures, and this may become a factor when using them for drying, for applesauce or cider, or in recipes. Every variety is different, and the only way to determine what you and your family prefer is to experience them in different ways.

Many apples will begin drying out immediately after picking and some may lose their quality in just days. The store fruit that we are accustomed to has been waxed to keep its moisture level sealed. With your trees, selective harvesting is good.

The following list of varieties were chosen to give a long window of ripening fruit in Fortuna. These were chosen mostly for fresh eating (from late July until Christmas!) and the making of applesauce:

  • Gravenstein. Ripens mid summer. Good for applesauce and baking. Crisp, juicy, flavorful, tart. Does not keep well.
  • Gala. Late summer, early fall. Wonderful dessert apple from New Zealand. Crisp, nice blend of sweetness and tartness, rich flavor.
  • Golden Delicious. Early fall. Long-time favorite for its sweetness and flavor. Pick only what you can eat in a week, this apple dries out quickly after picking.
  • Jonagold. Mid fall and a Humboldt County star. Superb flavor and connoisseurs’ choice. Crisp, juicy, sub-acid, all-purpose apple.
  • Fuji. Late fall. California’s favorite apple and from Japan. Sweet, very crisp and flavorful, and an excellent keeper.
  • Braeburn. Late fall. Superb late season fruit: very crisp and tangy, more flavorful than Granny Smith. Excellent keeper. Throw a cover over the tree if faced with a hard December freeze, the fruit will turn to mush below 25°F.
  • Waltana. Late fall. This one also needs protection against freezing, but the taste and versatility of this apple have earned it a place in the little orchard. Another good keeper.

According to this short list, early apples do not store well, while late apples are excellent keepers. This holds true for most varieties.

Apple Storage

A hundred years ago, apples grown here on the coast were packed in sawdust-filled barrels and shipped off to San Francisco by steamer. Closer to home, we would pack apples in newspaper and store them in the root cellar. But since it is so convenient to purchase food from the store, even the phrase ‘root cellar’ has pretty much disappeared from modern usage. The last two we built (in Michigan) consisted of sections of drain pipe three feet in diameter and five feet long that we had had sunk into a hillside. They had wooden lids and were lower in the back for drainage. We used them mostly to store boxes of root crops, and when the ground froze hard we would cover the lids with hay bales so we could still have access to our food supply during the coldest part of the winter.

But root cellars are not a good option here on the coast because of our copious amounts of rain and the high winter water table. But then, neither are coolers that rely on electricity. You could store your apple harvest in a cool garage or a shaded outbuilding. Try to keep them cool and moist while keeping the funguses at bay.

Apples today are shipped in boxes with cardboard separators that look like an oversized egg carton. That’s what we like to use. The grocery store disposes of those, ask and ye shall receive. These are ideal for storage since they keep the apples from touching. Use only ‘perfect’ apples for storage. Store them flat and in single layers, stacking them makes inspection too difficult. Remove immediately any fruit that shows signs of spoilage, and clean up any liquids. We’ve been able to keep a few until mid-January.

NEXT: Back to the Introduction.

Bear in mind most varieties of cooking apple, will need at least one pollinating partner- an apple tree which produces blossom around the same time. ( Bramley apple trees need two pollinating partners). However apple trees in nearby gardens or even a slow growing, small crab apple tree may do the job for you, as long as the blossom time overlaps with that of your tree. An alternative could be a “family” tree-one with two to four varieties grafted onto a single rootstock.


Bramley is the best known, and most reliable culinary apple grown in Ireland .

It makes a big tree which has specific pruning needs –making it too big for small gardens. Fortunately the choice is wide. Lane’s Prince Albert produces more spherical, glossy fruits than Bramley, but stores just as well. Blenheim Orange is a good dual purpose tree. The fruits are pleasantly sweet enough in January to enjoy them as an eating “dessert” apples.

Rev.W. Wilks is a more compact growing variety which stores well. Many of the native Irish varieties from the Irish Seed Savers Association which have survived the test of time have been revived by this great association. These apples are showing their good characteristics yet again,-eminently suited for the climate in which they have grown for donkey’s years


Most aspects, including a north facing wall are fine for cooking apples.

Ensure the garden has good drainage-if you see waterlogging for weeks after heavy rain, or dank soil with a lot of moss, or plants such as rushes growing, -it is probably not a suitable spot.

As with planting all fruit trees, don’t stint on the time and effort you give to the planting hole and make it really big and deep. Plant your tree so that the graft union (where the tree was joined to it’s rootstock) is above soil level.

Backfilling with well chopped turves of lawn, and adding bonemeal to the garden soil gives the young tree a moisture retentive and sufficiently fertile medium.

Make sure you water the root system well in the first spring and summer to ensure the tree “takes” well. ( a pipe sunk in the ground beside the tree helps)

Stake the tree and leave it in place for the first 3-4 years.

Pests and Diseases

The practice of fortnightly spraying with potent insecticides/fungicides and winter washes is something the organic gardener will wish to avoid. Although cooking apples are susceptible to a broad range of pests and diseases there is usually a fine enough harvest to ensure that losses should not matter too much.

The bigger, vigorous standard trees have a resilience to match their size.

Some apple varieties have good in-bred scab resistance (scab can particularly affect storage potential).


It is possible to harvest culinary apples slightly under ripe from late August when needed for the kitchen. This means the season of use can be extended from August until April with good storing.

The main harvest should be as soon as they start to fall from the tree with the wind. (Letting apples fall to the ground ruins their storage potential).

Pick each fruit carefully, only selecting those for storage which are sound and unblemished. Wrapping each fruit in a sheet of newspaper and storing in boxes placed in a cool, dry shed is a satisfying task in autumn. If you have no suitable storage shed you could barter with a friend or neighbour by offering some fruit in return for shed storage space. Fruit still in storage in March can be pureed and frozen, to further extend period of use, at a time of year when the freezer is often starting to look empty.

Many tall, old cooking apple trees, still fruiting well, are to be found all over Ireland .

A GIY meitheal could offer to fruit pick, and share the harvest with the owner. A fun way to fruit pick from such trees is with a group of five people. The picker goes up the tree, taking care, on a ladder. The four remaining on the ground each take a corner of an outstretched sheet and the picker drops the apples, one by one, down onto the sheet, where the collectors fill apples into boxes placed nearby. A lot kinder to the apples than letting them hit the deck!

Michael Fox is chairperson of South Dublin Allotments Association. He also runs an 8 week grow your own course for back gardeners in Terenure, Dublin-see www.plottopot.ie

How to Tell When Apples are Ready to Pick

By Erin Huffstetler | 08/24/2016 |

This post may contain affiliate links. View our disclosure.

Apples often look ready to pick long before they are, so how do you know when they’re really ready? Here are some ways to tell when your apples are ripe:


Some apple varieties have an all red skin or an all yellow or green skin, but most apples have multi-colored skins. Look at the base (or ground) color of your apples. If the base color is green, your apples aren’t ready yet. If the base color is yellow, they are.

How Easily They Come Off the Tree

Apples are easy to separate from the tree when they’re ready. To test their readiness, hold an apple in your hand, lift it towards the stem, and twist. If it comes off easily, it’s ready. If it requires a good bit of yanking and tugging, it isn’t.

Color of Seeds

Cut an apple in half, and look at the seeds. If they’re dark brown, the apple is ripe. If they’re white or light brown in color, the apple still has some ripening to do.

Number of Days from Bloom

Make a note of when your apple trees bloom each spring. Then, count out 160-185 days to determine the approximate harvest time for your trees. If you’re growing more than one apple variety, be sure to record the bloom time for each variety; it’s likely to vary some.

Note: While this is good way to predict the harvest date for your apple trees; it’s just that – a prediction. The weather could speed up or slow down this date, so start watching for other signs that your apples are ripe in the weeks leading up to the expected harvest date.

Don’t Go By …

what your neighbors are doing. Some apple varieties ripen in July, while others ripen in November. Your neighbor’s may not have the same kinds of apples as you, so don’t pick your apples just because you see your neighbors’ picking theirs. Do ask your neighbor for advice, though. If they’ve been growing apples for a while, they may be able to help you determine when you should pick yours.

And Don’t Freak Out If …

apples start to fall off your trees. It’s perfectly normal for some apples to fall off the tree before it’s time to harvest. Sometimes they fall off because they’re damaged, and sometimes they’ve simply ripened before the rest of the tree. If the fallen apples don’t seem to have any problems, take it as a sign that the rest of your apples are almost ready, and start watching them for signs of ripeness.

Apples on the Same Tree May Ripen at Different Times

Apples on the outside of the tree tend to ripen first, as do apples on the southern side of the tree, so don’t just assume that all of the apples on the tree are ready because you’ve found some that are. Pick what’s ready, and give the rest time to catch up. If you pick apples at the right time, they’ll be sweeter and they’ll store better, too.

Also Check Out:

  • Cheap Organic Pest Control for Fruit Trees
  • Crockpot Applesauce Recipe

Apple Picking and Storage Tips

Published by Parlee Farms Follow Us:

It’s sad to see summer go but New England has so much to offer in the fall, including apple picking season! Pick your own apple season officially gets started in September and lasts until late October.

Here are a few apple picking tips to keep in mind on your visit to your local orchard:

• The best apples in an orchard will be found where the farmer has marked for picking on that day. Apple varieties ripen at different times. Color alone is not a good indicator of ripeness. Farmers use a variety of methods to determine fruit ripeness including days from bloom, seed color, and starch index. Trust your farmer to determine the best apples for picking on the day you visit.
• Only pick ripe apples. Unlike other fruits, like peaches, apples stop ripening once they are picked so you want to make sure they are picked at the right time.
• Apples ripen from the outside of the tree in, so the apples at the outside of the tree should be ready for picking first.
• To pick the apple, lift and twist it off of the branch. Don’t pull it off as it causes nearby apples to fall as well as damages the spur needed for next year’s apple. If the apple is ripe it should easily come off.
• Be gentle with the apples when placing them in the bag or basket. If you toss them in, they will bruise. They should be handled like you would handle an egg.

Here are some storing tips for after your apple picking trip:

• Keep apples cool in the refrigerator. Apples can last for weeks, depending on the variety. Some varieties keep better than others.
• Always be gentle with the apples. Bruised apples will rot more quickly.
• Wait to wash apples until just before they are used. Washing the apples immediately can result in spoiling.

Apple season in New England is the perfect time of year to enjoy family time and the beautiful fall weather. We hope your visit to your local orchard provides lasting family memories and excellent fruit!

Categorized in: Apples

This post was written by Parlee Farms

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