The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to pick apples

Harvesting an apple

Until this year, I didn't realize there was a right and a wrong way to pick apples.  Of course, it's important to wait until the apples are at their peak ripeness, signs of which include dropped apples, seeds turning brown or black, the green on the apple turning yellowish, and (most importantly) the apples tasting ripe.  But once you've determined that your apples are ready to harvest, you shouldn't just go out and yank the fruits off the tree.

Apple spur flower

To understand why not, let me back up and zoom in on the top of an apple.  Fruits like peaches develop on first year wood, but apples are different.  In most apple varieties, flower buds form only on spurs, which are second-year-and-older, short branches.  The same spur that's holding up this year's apple is also where next year's flowers are forming, and if you're not careful, you'll rip the flower buds off right along with this year's fruit, meaning no apples next year.  In the photo above, you can see next year's flower bud as a pointy structure on the top, left side of the apple.

Reach for an apple

To pick an apple without damaging the spur, you want to lift and twist rather than yank.  You can do this one-handed, but at first you might want to use two hands, holding the branch steady with one while twisting the apple with the other.

Basket of apples

Using this technique, Mark and I harvested all of the apples from our 4.5-year-old Virginia Beauty yesterday and got about a third of a bushel.  This is the first year our tree has produced, so I figure that's a pretty good haul (especially considering that I've eaten at least a third as many more over the last three weeks.  I had to consume the split apples so they wouldn't rot, and they tasted so good I just kept eating...).

Virginia Beauty

I sorted the apples and stacked them from best to worst in our crisper drawer.  If we had more, I'd put the fruits away in the fridge root cellar, but at the rate I'm going through them, these apples won't last another month.  And the crisper drawer was empty, having stored spring carrots, peaches, and now apples, with fall carrots not coming in until next month.  It's hard to explain how satisfying it feels to be harvesting (and eating) so much homegrown food.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We have several, VERY tall, very old apple trees on our property. Some of the trees are on the edge of the woods, most are a short ways IN the woods. I have no idea what varieties they are but it's been practically raining apples for almost 2 weeks now. There's still a huge bounty of apples still on the trees (about 20-40 ft high!) getting larger and riper by the day. I've been checking their growth progress with my binoculars. LOL! Everyday I go and sample freshly fallen fruits and am so pleasantly surprised at just how delicious these apples are turning out to be. I feel like I've hit a jackpot right in our own backyard! What a feeling that is! I'm wondering if the spotty black stuff on the skin should be scrubbed off before storage. Thank you and keep up the great work Anna and Mark. You both are an inspiration.
Comment by Monica Fri Sep 20 08:53:22 2013

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