This article is part of “Buckeye Discoveries,” an online horticulture series by Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteer of Gates County Cyndee Wagoner.
Every year about mid-July, the same question always comes up: How do you know when the apples are ready to be picked? The easy answer is to pick an apple, cut it open, and see if the seeds are brown rather than white. White seeds appear in immature apples. Look at the color of the apple. The flesh should be white and not green. Taste the apple to confirm it is full of flavor.
Dropped apples are a good indicator that you should start looking for apples to be ripe, but is not a definitive sign apples are ready. Apples often drop before the fruit is ripe. When picking an apple, lift and twist, not yank and pull. It should come off easily.
Apples on the outer edges of the tree will ripen before those in the center of the tree. Fruit facing the south side will get ripe sooner because of exposure to more sunlight. Typically picking apples should cover a time span of one or two weeks, NOT picking all of the apples on the same day. Harvest time is September through October in cooler climates, and in the warmer southern climate, harvest time is late summer through early spring.
After harvest, apples will continue to ripen. It is best to store them in a bag in the refrigerator for storage. On the countertop, apples will last for only one to two weeks. At the grocery store, the apples have been waxed to keep moisture sealed in.
There is a trick to ripening fruit after harvesting them: The paper bag method. Paper bags are not only good for taking your lunch, but also works well for ripening avocados, bananas, apples, and pears. Put the unripe fruit in the paper bag along with a banana, which is a high producer of ethylene. Close loose, and check daily. The fruit should be ripe in a day or two.
For more information about Growing Apples in the Home Garden, contact the Ask A Master Gardener Helpline at (252) 482-6585.