When Are Apples Ready to Pick

When are apples ready to pick? Timing the harvesting of your apples can be as much art as science. Pick your apples too soon and they'll be hard and sour, too late and they'll be soft and mealy. Although there are many methods for determining how ripe your apples are, the best are the simplest.

Harvesting Your Apples At The Right Time
Apple blossoms mature into apples on small branches called spurs that for along larger branches. The cells of an apple stem die as the fruit matures, allowing the stem to break and the apple to fall to the ground. Here are some ways to tell when your apples are ripe for harvesting:

  • On schedule. A good rough estimate of the maturity of your apples is to track the days after bloom. Each species of apple has a specific time from bloom to fruit. For example, Red Delicious apples need between 135 and 155 days, while Granny Smith apples take from 170 to 180 days.
  • Take a look. As your apples get close to maturity, take one off the tree and examine it. If the seeds are still light colored, it is too early to harvest, but if the seeds are dark brown to black, your apples should be ready to harvest. While you've got that apple off the tree, take a bite-taste is the most reliable indicator of ripeness.
  • The tug test. As apples ripen, the connection between the stem and branch weakens. To check for ripeness, give and apple a gentle tug. A ripe apple will come away easily. If you have to pull or tug at the apple, leave it on the tree.
  • Color. An apple will change color as it nears maturity. Red apples will have a blush that gets deeper as the fruit gets closer to harvest. Green apples will gain a creamy white or yellowish tinge at maturity.
  • Be flexible. Not all apples ripen at the same time on the same tree, so you'll have to check regularly and be ready to harvest ripe fruit. If you're harvesting commercially, it's better to pick a little early, so that fruit continues to ripen as it goes to market. If you only have a tree or two, however, you can wait until apples start to fall naturally for the best flavor.
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