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Harvesting apples

September is when your apples become ripe for harvest, Carol Ann Burtness share her tips for how to store them.

Harvesting apples for today, tomorrow and later

Between August and mid-October, apples are at their peak. Store apples in a cool, dark place, advises Carol Ann Burtness, food science educator with the University of Minnesota Extension
Service. They’ll remain crisp and juicy longer if refrigerated. Keep them in the refrigerator humidifier/crisper compartment, or in plastic bags with small air holes to keep a high moisture level. Apples can be stored for three to four months between 32-35 degrees Fahrenheit/0-2 degrees Celsius.

Remember the old adage about not mixing apples and oranges. Odours and natural gases released by other fruits can taint your apples and give them an odd taste if you keep them together for an extended time, according to Dr Arlie Powell, horticulturist with the Alabama
Cooperative Extension System
.

Apples darken quickly when they are exposed to air. How you preserve them depends on the variety, advises Burtness. You can keep them fresh-looking for cooking or preserving by sprinkling
commercially prepared ascorbic acid products on apples, or mixing with a canning. Dipping apples in a solution of three tablespoons of bottled lemon juice mixed with one litre of water is another option, but not as effective as the commercial ascorbic acid products.

When freezing, begin with apples that are crisp and firm, not mealy, in texture. Varieties that are good for pie and sauce are good choices for freezing. Frozen apples keep better texture and flavour if they are packed in sugar or sugar syrup. However, you can freeze unsweetened apple slices if you are going to cook or bake them in pies or cobblers. Freeze slices on a baking sheet and when they are frozen solid, remove the slices and pack in freezer containers.

Dried apple rings, wedges or chips are an excellent treat. The best apple varieties for drying are firm-textured and tart. For best dried-apple quality, use apples soon after harvest.

When canning slices, sauce and sweet spreads, use high quality apples without signs of decay. Don’t can “windfall apples”, fruit that has blown off the tree, because they are likely to contain mould spores that can result in spoilage. Choose apples that are juicy, crispy and preferably both sweet and tart.

If the top surface of home-canned apple-sauce turns brown, it’s probably due to oxygen reacting with the sauce and turning brown. This usually happens because the sauce was not processed for the proper length of time. Processing kills spoilage organisms and drives out all the air, which contains oxygen. To prevent browning, always process for the recommended time. For safety and best quality, hot-pack all home-canned apple products and process in a boiling water bath for the specified times.

Note that open-kettle canning of any product is not safe! Properly stored or preserved, apples will remain flavourful for months and months!

Post-harvest care for apple trees

After picking the last of those juicy ripe apples, the season is over, right? This is hardly the case. There is a lot that goes into post-harvest care of apples and apple trees, according to Dr Powell.

Remove excess growth from trees two to three weeks before harvest. This maintenance pruning is helpful when it comes time to harvest. Pick fruit when they are tree ripe for the best flavour.

After harvest, don’t forget to use fungicidal sprays. Keep an eye on nuisance insects and maintain pest management. Just because you picked the fruit, doesn’t mean the tree is free of problems. Applying late sprays helps prevent leaf diseases. Also, irrigate trees as required.

If you have Granny Smith apples growing, consider having them as a sweet fruit this year. Let the apples stay on the trees up to first frost. The starch is converted to sugar, but late in the season the apples lose their tartness. Pick them when they ripen, as they begin to blush. By now, the apples will be very sweet. Traditionally, Granny Smith apples go in pies, ciders or are served as baked apples, but with a sweet Granny apple, you can have a delicious snack all by itself.

For more tips on growing your own fruit and vegetables, visit our gardening channel.

Tags: , Last modified: September 21, 2021

Written by 8:38 am Gardening

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