Fall is just around the corner. For me, Fall brings back memories of fire pit evenings, football games, beautiful fall colors in tree lines, seasonal mums, and picking apples. I savor family time being spent outdoors. I thoroughly enjoy watching my grandkids during this time of year…especially when we travel to the apple orchard and they are all about helping pick “good” apples. That got me thinking about how I can help them learn about picking apples as we have fun at the apple orchard.
I prefer like to look for a “pick your own” orchard because I love to do the apple picking.
Many of the orchards offer other festivities like games and pumpkins patches. Here in Iowa, September and early October are the best times to visit the orchards.
There are a few things that I have learned that will make the apple picking experience a positive event for the visitor as well as the orchard owners.
- Pick apples in the designated areas. Orchards have predetermined trees that are ready for picking. Meaning that the apples are ripe, ready and will easily come off the tree without damaging the tree for future seasons.
- No tree climbing. Not only is this dangerous, it could do damage to the more fragile areas of the tree and unless they have provided ladders to reach higher limbs, the apples to be picked are the ones that are within reach.
- No throwing apples.
- Watch your step. Since apples adorn the ground it is important to watch where you are stepping and to wear appropriate shoes to be able to walk freely on uneven ground.
- Keep the younger ones close and help them in the picking process. Help them to learn the importance of picking apples with future years in mind. When we damage the tree it does affect the next years’ blooms.
What to look for and how to pick like an expert:
- Look at the apple. Look for imperfections like blemishes, bruises or insect damage.
- The apple should have a creamy looking background. If the apple is a red apple, it will still have a golden glow behind the red color. No matter what your favorite type of apple, a ripe and ready apple will have a creamy coloring in the background.
- A ripe apple will general be a sweeter apple. The more tart the apple, the less ripe it is.
- A ripe apple will be crisp. Apples will become less crisp as they ripen.
- If there are a lot of apples on the ground, chances are that particular tree is ripe or over ripened and has been dropping apples.
- Seeds will be brown in color. When you cut into the apple, the seeds of a ripe apple will be brown in color.
- Apples are delicate and need to be treated accordingly.
- Don’t pull, tug or grab at the apples. Be gentle and roll the apple in the direction of the branch and twist gently. The stem should break away easily and the spur should remain intact on the tree. If you pull to roughly, you remove the spur of the apple.
- Most orchards will provide bags to collect apples you’ve picked. Be sure to not over stuff the bags which may bruise or damage your harvest.
- Store your apples in a cool, dark place. They should be separate from other produce.
- Apples last longer when stored in a cool (33 degree), high humidity (90-95%) location.
- Do not wash the apples until you are ready to eat them. Unwashed apples have better storage results.
- If you notice that the stem is missing – this apple should be used or disposed of, because it can create an entry area for pests.
The apple picking season is just getting started. Get out and enjoy the fall with the family and remember some of these helpful suggestions to make your experience as well as others the best it can be.