Many customers ask for advice on how best to pick and store their apples, so we've had great fun compiling our Top Tips to make the most of your apple and fruit harvest...
1. Only Harvest When The Apples Are Ripe
Apples can be harvested from July to October. Early apple varieties are usually ready to pick from late July into September and these should be eaten immediately as they don't keep for very long. Most other varieties will be ready to pick from late September, early October and will need further storage to ensure they are in their peak condition. It is possible to predict when your apples will ripen - this is usually calculated as 135 to 180 days following pollination.
A simple way to test if the apples are ready, is to pick one from the tree and slice it in half. If it isn't ripe, the pips will be white, but if it's ripe, the pips will be brown.
Apples ripen from the outside of a tree first, so you can harvest your crop in stages. To pick an apple, don't shake the tree or branch, simply cup it and gently twist. If the apple doesn't come away from the branch easily, it means that it's not yet ripe, so try to resist pulling and tugging vigorously as this may damage any fruiting spurs and you risk reducing next year's crop. You can pick many apples by hand from the low lying branches with ease, but you may find it helpful to use an apple picker to reach those higher up.
Choosing a suitable picker depends on the size of your tree and the abundance of your harvest. There are lots of different options to choose from on the market but one of the best we have discovered is a clever telescopic apple picker. This ingenious tool features a lightweight, extending aluminum pole that can reach up to 2.4m, allowing you to reach the top branches.
Once picked, don't throw your apples into your trug or basket, or they will bruise and go bad more quickly. Instead, place them gently into your container and be sure not to pile them too high. The best way to avoid over piling and crushing or bruising the apples, is to use a wide, flat bottomed trug or natural wicker basket.
4. Sort Your Fruit
Sort your gathered fruit and remove any bruised or damaged ones to prevent contamination of the good apples. Select for storage, only those fruit that have reached maturity but are not quite fully ripe. A mature apple is full-sized and has a sweet flavour. It should have a greenish-yellow undercolor and will be crisp and firm. Try to avoid including over-ripe fruit which detaches too easily from the tree and which has a completely yellow undercolor, with a softened flesh, and quite a mellow flavor. This fruit will break down rapidly in storage and you will risk contaminating the rest of the crop.
5. Prepare Your Apples
To keep the chosen fruit in tip top condition, wash and dry them and ideally wrap them in newspaper. If you have the time and inclination, wrapping each apple individually with newspaper will help them to last longer through the winter!
Apples can last for several months if stored somewhere like a garage or shed where it's cool, dark, well ventilated and ideally, frost free. To prevent spoiling, ensure the apples are stored in a single layer and not touching. It's best to store them in a specially designed apple store which has ideally placed slatted shelving to encourage good air circulation.
7. Check On Your Fruit Through The Winter
Be sure to check on your stock through the winter and ensure that the apples are not freezing in cold conditions. Freezing is deadly to apples as it ruptures all of their cells and turns your lovely fruit into one large bruise overnight.
8. Don't Store Apples Near Potatoes
Apples and potatoes should never be stored close together and ideally, not in the same room. As they age, potatoes release an ethylene gas, which hastens fruit ripening and will make your apples spoil faster. If you can store the fruit and root vegetables separately, they will keep in good condition. To store your potatoes separately and keep them fresh, we recommend using a traditional, natural willow Potato Hopper. Or if you have quite a quantity, it's best to store them in a breathable Jute Sack or a storage bag that features blackout lining to prevent aging.
...and finally. Don't forget to be generous and leave some apples on the tree for wild birds and local wildlife to enjoy!