As the weather cools and summer gives way to fall, a favorite fall pastime emerges: apple harvesting. Fall is the perfect time to harvest and enjoy apples. How can Iowans make the most of their apple experience this year? Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists on the best way to enjoy apples this fall.
As the weather cools and summer gives way to fall, a favorite fall pastime emerges: apple harvesting. Fall is the perfect time to harvest and enjoy apples. How can Iowans make the most of their apple experience this year? Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists on the best way to enjoy apples this fall. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or email@example.com.
The harvest period for apples varies from one cultivar to another. For example, Jonathan apples are normally harvested in mid-September. The harvest season for Red Delicious apples is normally late September. However, the harvest time may vary by one or more weeks from year to year due to weather conditions during the growing season. Gardeners should base the harvest time on the maturity of the apples rather than a calendar date. Good indicators of apple maturity are taste, texture and color.
Mature apples are firm, crisp, juicy and well-colored, and have developed the characteristic flavor of the cultivar. Color alone is not a reliable indicator of maturity. Red Delicious apples, for example, often turn red before the fruit is mature. Fruit harvested too early are astringent, sour, starchy and poorly flavored. Apples harvested too late are soft and mushy.
When harvesting apples, pick and handle the fruit carefully to prevent unnecessary damage. Sort through the apples during harvest. Remove and promptly use bruised or cut apples. Also, remove apples that exhibit insect and disease problems. Separate the apples by size. Use the largest apples first as they don’t store as well as the smaller fruit.
Temperature and relative humidity during storage are critical for maximum storage life. Optimum storage conditions for apples are a temperature near 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity between 90 and 95 percent. Apple cultivars, such as Red Delicious, stored under optimum conditions may be stored up to three to five months. Apples stored at 50 F will spoil two to three times faster than those stored at 32 F. If the humidity during storage is low, apples will dehydrate and shrivel.
Small quantities of apples may be placed in perforated plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator. Perforated plastic bags maintain a high relative humidity, while they prevent the accumulation of excess moisture inside the bags.
Large quantities of apples can be stored in a second refrigerator, cellar, unheated outbuilding or garage. Place the apples in perforated plastic bags or plastic-lined boxes/crates. Apples should be moved from unheated outbuildings and garages prior to extremely cold weather as storage temperatures will likely drop well below freezing. Apples will freeze when temperatures drop below 30 F. Frozen apples deteriorate rapidly once thawed.
The problem is likely sooty blotch and flyspeck. Sooty blotch and flyspeck is a fungal complex that colonizes the waxy cuticle of the apple. Sooty blotch appears as dark brown to black, ½ inch or larger smudges on the surface of the apple. Flyspeck produces clusters of shiny, round, black dots. Individual dots are about the size of a pinhead. Environmental conditions that favor sooty blotch/flyspeck development are moderate temperatures and extended wet periods in late summer/early fall.
Sooty blotch and flyspeck live on the surface of the apple. Damage is mainly cosmetic. The apples are safe to eat. They’re just not very attractive. Sooty blotch and flyspeck can be removed with vigorous rubbing.
Cultural practices and fungicides can help control sooty blotch and flyspeck. Proper pruning of apples trees and thinning of fruit promote drying and reduce the severity of sooty blotch and flyspeck. Fungicides also may be necessary.