Harvesting Apples

September 3, 2015 – Kenosha News

apples on a treeQuestion: I just moved and the yard has a number of different apple trees. It looks like we will have lots of apples but I don’t know what kind they are so don’t know when the apples should be picked. Do I need to know the type of apple to know when it is ready for picking? Are there any guidelines for knowing when apples are ripe? C.B.

Answer: Knowing the type of apple might help with the approximate time for harvest, but there are better ways than the calendar for home apple growers to know when to pick. It is best to pick when apples are mature but not fully ripe, especially if you plan to store them.

One way to decide if your apples are ready is a taste test. Under-ripe apples have a starchy taste and lack that great fresh apple smell. The starch in the fruit changes to sugar as an apple matures, giving the fruit its characteristic flavor and aroma. Pick your apples when they taste sweet and juicy.

Ripeness of apples may also be judged by skin color. The bright green will disappear and, depending on apple, its characteristic red, yellow or pale green color develops. Watch for the “ground” or base color to change, especially on the top or stem end. When it changes from green to yellowish or blush, depending on the apple color, the apple is mature.

Another maturity indicator is dark brown seeds when you cut the apple open.

Harvest apples by lightly twisting the fruit while gently pulling. Avoid damaging the fruiting spurs (tiny branches where the fruit attaches to the tree) when picking. Flower buds for next year’s crop are on the spurs.

Mature apples harvested in September and October can be kept up to five months. Do not store bruised or damaged fruit. The old adage “a rotten apple spoils the bushel” is true. Damaged fruit emits ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening (i.e. rotting) process of other fruit stored nearby. For the same reason, it is a good idea to periodically check stored apples and remove bad ones.

Store your apples between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit in vented plastic bags. Plastic bags prevent apples from drying out and shriveling. Vents in the bag allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to exchange for maximum storage length.


Barb Larson is horticulture educator for Kenosha County University of Wisconsin-Extension. Barb has a Master’s of Science in horticulture from the UW-Madison. Gardening questions can be emailed to barbara.larson@kenoshacounty.org or call Master Gardener Volunteers at 262-857-1942.