What should you look for when picking your own organic apples?
Pick-your-own orchards are in abundance during the fall and can make for a fun outing for the entire family. To ensure that you only bring home apples of the highest quality, we’ve put together a few picking tips for you to follow:
1. Select firm fruit that is free of any bruises or blemishes. Different varieties of apples will ripen at different times in the fall, so be sure to check with the farmer or staff to see which ones are ready to pick when you visit.
2. The shape of an apple is dependent on what variety it is. For instance, Red Delicious apples are usually more oblong (coke-bottle shaped) than the round Golden Delicious. That said, when picking your own apples, always look for fruit that is symmetrical on both sides.
3. Just like shape, the color of the apple varies by variety. Some varieties, like Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Pink Lady have their given color in their name, but others like Granny Smith (green), Macintosh (mostly red over a green background), and Honeycrisp (blushed scarlet over a yellow background) do not. Ask the farmer or staff about what color the variety of apple you are picking should be.
4. Apples tend to ripen from the outside of the tree towards the center because of the amount of sunlight that hits the fruit. If you can, select the apples on outer tree branches before taking ones from the inside.
5. Once you are ready to pick, put the bottom of the apple in the palm of your hand and gently lift the apple up. If ripe, the apple should break easily off the tree. If it doesn’t, it isn’t quite ready yet. Twisting the stem could damage next year’s spur. Try to keep the stem on while picking, as it helps maintain freshness.
6. Gently place the apples in your picking basket and keep them in a cool place. Refrain from washing the apples until just before you eat them to prevent spoilage.
What is the best apple for a given purpose?
With so many different apple varieties grown today, it can really hard to choose which one is best for a given purpose. Because of that, we’ve decided to offer a few different varieties up for each use. Try them all at different times to see which you like best!
For Baking: Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Piñata, and Rome Beauty.
The most important feature of a baking apple is to find one that can withstand cooking temperatures. The last thing you want is a mushy apple pie! Rome Beauty is known as the “baker’s buddy” for its ability to retain its texture during cooking. The thin skin of the Golden Delicious and Pinata apples (Pinata has Golden Delicious parentage) make it ideal for baking. Of course, Granny Smith boasts the tart flavor which complements sweeter recipes like apple crisp or pie.
For Fresh Eating: Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, Macintosh
Honeycrisp is quickly becoming a new favorite due to its fracturing bite and juicy, refreshing flavor. Fuji is considered one of the sweetest apple varieties available, and Gala has mellow flavors that children adore. Finally, Macintosh offers that classic apple flavor with pleasant acidity. Don't forget that organic apples are the ones you can eat while you pick!
For Salads: Cameo, Cortland, Pink Lady, Granny Smith
When it comes using apples in a fresh salad, look for apples that resist browning when sliced. These four selections would also be a great addition to any apple/cheese platter!
For Sauces: Golden Delicious, Gala, Idared
For applesauce, it’s best to select an apple with a softer flesh. Golden Delicious and Gala are both mildly-sweet, while Idared makes for a fun pink apple sauce (cook apples with skin on and strain the sauce to get the pink color)!
For Freezing: Braeburn, Pink Lady, Cameo
Though many apple varieties are available year-round these days, there are instances when you may want to freeze apples for later use. Braeburn, Pink Lady, and Cameo are all great picks that are readily available in the U.S.
Other Uses: Try pairing your favorite snacking apple with a gourmet cheese like aged cheddar or Gouda, and whole-wheat crackers. Dehydrating apples is another great way to enjoy this fruit, as long as you have the right equipment. Also, apples and peanut butter make a great snack that kids enjoy!
What is the best way to store apples and enjoy them all winter long?
One of the many great things about apples is that they store fairly well for a perishable product. Store unwashed apples in the coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the crisper drawer) – away from strong-smelling foods. On occasion, apples can take on the odors of other foods. Refrigeration is best, but if you are storing several boxes of apples, keep them in a cold, dark place (like the garage) in the box they arrived in.
Be sure to check your apples frequently for any quality issues. They are a perishable product and can spoil if left for too long!