The Apple Harvest in Wilkes Is Almost in the Basket

— Written By JoAnne Gryder

The last of this year’s apple crop is coming off of the, trees and it has turned out to be a fairly successful season for most growers. Even though harvest is about over, there will still be apples available well into next year. New technology and new varieties that can be stored longer will give consumers the ability to buy local apples well into next year.

Many years ago, NC State University researchers discovered a naturally occurring chemical that slowed down the ripening process in certain fruits. That product is now called Smart Fresh and is used to treat apples to improve their storage life. Very few local apples are treated with Smart Fresh, but it has been successfully used on varieties like Ginger Gold and other varieties that do not store well.

One of the keys to storing apples for extended periods is to select varieties that keep well. Pink Lady, Fuji, Stayman and Arkansas Black are varieties that can last up to 5 or 6 months if stored properly. Brushy Mountain Limbertwig is a local apple that growers say will last more than 6 months.

Another key to storing apples is to make sure they are placed in an environment that stays cool and with relatively high humidity. People most often think of refrigerators when storing apples and it can be an ideal place. The best temperature for apple storage is around 32 degrees F, however temperatures below 28 will damage the fruit and cause the apple to ripen more quickly when brought to room rack

Apples require a relative humidity of 90 to 95% to keep from shriveling. The best way to store small quantities of apple is to put them in a plastic bag that has some holes in it. Larger quantities can be stored in cellars and basements as long as the humidity is high and the room is not subject to freezing. Make sure to remove any damaged fruit, as they will lose the eating quality more quickly.