How to Harvest, Store and Process Apples

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Apples on a tree

Ah, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! If you’re lucky enough to have an apple tree groaning with fruit, you’ll want to make the most of this seasonal abundance. Read on to find out exactly when and how to pick apples, and the best ways to store and process them.

Knowing When to Harvest Apples

You’ve been waiting all season and finally the moment of truth has arrived: sweet and crunchy apples ready for picking! But how do you know they are ready to harvest? Nature offers us some clues.

Apples are ready when the skin colour deepens. Fruits at the sides and top of the tree usually ripen first because they receive more sunlight. Ripe fruits should easily come away from the tree, while the presence of windfalls is a sure sign you can start harvesting. If in doubt, a simple taste test should confirm whether your apples are fit to pick!

How to Pick an Apple

The best way to pick an apple is to cup it in the palm of your hand, lift it up then give it a gentle twist until it comes away. Each apple should detach complete with its stalk. Always handle apples carefully to avoid bruising the delicate flesh and never tug an apple from the tree or you could damage the fruiting spurs or cause apples nearby to drop.

Take care when picking apples from higher up. Use a stepladder and avoid overreaching or you could lose your balance. Remember, not all apples are ready at the same time, so pick regularly as individual clusters ripen.

Harvested apples ready for storing

Preparing Apples for Storing

Only store mid or late season apples. Early season varieties don’t keep and are best eaten soon after picking. Mid season varieties should keep for a few weeks, while late season varieties will stay in good condition for anywhere up to six months. Apples destined for storage must be perfect, with no bruises or blemishes that could provide entry points for rot.

Store apples by wrapping up individual fruits in newspaper or tissue paper. Place the wrapped apples onto trays that allow air to circulate. You can also store them unwrapped, but the fruits mustn’t touch. Different varieties store for different lengths of time, so keep them separate and eat those that won’t store as long first.

Where to Store Apples

The ideal store is somewhere dark, well-ventilated, and cool but frost-free. Most garages and sheds are ideal, while attics and basements should be avoided due to either excessive heat, lack of ventilation or low humidity. Check stored apples regularly and remove any that are going soft, brown or rotting.

Stewing apples for crumbles and other home-made treats

Processing Apples

If you’ve got too many apples to store – lucky you! You might like to consider processing your glut into store cupboard delicacies and home-made drinks.

You can freeze apples by stewing washed chunks with a dash of water until they soften. Once ready, sieve and pour the stewed apples into containers, leaving a small space at the top as they will expand slightly when frozen, and pop into the freezer.

You can also cut your fruits into thin slices then dry them out in a dehydrator to make a deliciously chewy and healthy snack. Other ideas for excess apples include making preserves such as jellies, jams, chutneys and sauces. Or why not try your hand at making a refreshing apple juice, country wine or cider?

The apple really is an incredibly generous tree! We’d love to hear your ideas for storing apples, or perhaps you have a favourite apple-based recipe you’d like to share? If so, then drop us a comment below.

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Show Comments


"Our dwarf McIntosh so loaded with apples. A branch broke from the tree due to the weight. We picked them from the broken limb and now want to store them properly so they may ripen further. We'll then freeze them, can them, and make pies. How should we store them while the rest of the tree ripens for us to pick. We figure the rest will be ready about mid-September."
Kris Fallon on Friday 17 August 2018
"Hi Kris. You may find that the apples aren't quite mature enough to continue ripening off the tree. However, it's worth a go, particularly if they're already showing a little colour, as they may continue to ripen on the branch. I would store them at room temperature, or near-enough to that if you can. If the fruits are a little under-ripe by mid-September, then perhaps prioritise those ones for cooking rather than eating fresh."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 20 August 2018

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