As the heat of summer gives way to the cooler temperatures of fall, apples are maturing, and gardeners are wondering when the best time is to harvest apples.
The earliest apples, such as low die and yellow transparent, have already matured. The summer apples have a short shelf life and need to be used immediately for eating or applesauce. They won't keep more than a few days in the refrigerator.
Over the next month, fall apples such as gala, honey crisp, and Jonathan will begin to mature. As the apples mature, you should notice three apparent changes.
- Fruit that is exposed to the light will begin to turn red. The color change is a good indication of maturity. Apple coloring is hastened with cool overnight temperatures.
- The fruit will soften. You can feel us by giving individual fruit a good squeeze in your hand. Your thumb should perceive a slight give as the fruit softens. This is also a good indication of fruit that is ready for harvest.
- When you take a bite from an apple, the flesh is sweet, and you detect it with no starchy taste. Starch changes into sugar as the fruit matures.
The idea in watching these parameters is to get the fruit harvested before it is fully ripe.
Once the fruit begins to drop on the ground, all of the fruit is likely overripe fruit that won't keep well and will continue to soften and then decay. Fruit that's maturing and harvested before it drops from the tree will keep longer than fruit that is fully ripe.
Keep in mind that fruit matures from top to the bottom, and from the outside to the inside. Thus, you can begin your harvest at the top of the tree and then move downwards for a couple of days.
To get the highest quality apples, you'll need to spend a little time tasting, squeezing, and examining your apples. Harvesting fruit at the correct time will give you the best quality fruit.