[NAFEX] Picking apples

Douglas Woodard dwoodard at becon.org
Sat Oct 10 14:44:02 EDT 2009

Apples, especially those with high soluble solids, can take a few 
degrees of frost - but don't touch those with frozen surfaces until they 
thaw, because they will bruise at the slightest touch. This was 
explained to me by a commercial grower of Golden Delicious here. It 
often happens that the October night frost will freeze the outer layers 
of the apples, and then the pickers must wait until the apples thaw.

Reputedly apples left on trees after leaf fall will cause a decrease in 
the tree's cold-hardiness if it is at all marginal. So my guess would be 
that they take up some nutrients after leaf fall. I notice that for some 
late British apples, experienced growers for home use in England 
recommend leaving them on the trees well into November or even sometimes 
later. One year with a mild fall I ate Starks from an old tree in Prince 
Edward County (the peninsula on the north shore of Lake Ontario south of 
Belleville) at the beginning of December. They were excellent. They had 
taken a few frosts.

Generally for longest keeping one picks a little earlier than if one is 
aiming for maximum quality, especially quality relatively early after 
picking. This is said in the old books to make a considerable difference 
with Wealthy for example. I noticed it also in a report on Keepsake in 
Fruit Varieties Journal around 1979.

Doug Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario

William C. Garthright wrote:
> I just picked my late apples, so it won't apply this year, but I was 
> wondering how other people do it (specifically, those with backyard 
> orchards). This is my first year with fruit, and we're getting unusually 
> cold weather this weekend. The forecast was for temperatures dropping to 
> the mid-20s, but you never really know if the forecast is going to be 
> accurate.
> So I went ahead and picked my late apples on Friday, though one variety 
> (Goldrush) seems to be pretty green yet. Well, I tend to like green 
> apples even better than ripe ones, so that's no problem. And I don't yet 
> have a ton of fruit, anyway. But I want to store what I do have, and I 
> was worried that it might get cold enough to damage the apples. As I 
> say, you never really know how could it WILL get.
> And will apples continue to ripen on the tree if the leaves have been 
> frozen? Or at that point, would they ripen just as well after being 
> picked? Admittedly, apple leaves seem to be able to take pretty cold 
> weather (judging from my experiences last year, when the leaves lasted a 
> long time).
> Anyway, I'm not sure what I'm asking here. Just wondering how other 
> people decide when to pick late apples, when the weather doesn't seem to 
> be cooperating (these were probably slower than usual this year, due to 
> our remarkably cool weather the last few months).
> Bill
> Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

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