When you bring a beautiful bunch of apples home it's best to know how to store them properly to keep them as fresh as possible! You want your tasty, fresh selection of apples readily available to enjoy whether or not you use them up right away or weeks later!
Apple Picking Season: What You Need to Know and How to Store Your Fruit!
As we’re starting to see the end of the beautiful reds and yellows of fall leaves and the weather gets colder, I’m reminded of all of my favorite things about this season. Hot chocolate, the beginning of sweater season, and of course, apples.
I love apples year-round, but there’s nothing better than going apple picking and using your freshly harvested fruit for your favorite recipes. Apple cake, apple cobbler, applesauce, apple butter, candied apples, apple cider. Is there anything apples aren’t good in?
Apple Season in the United States
The main harvest season in the US is between September and October. Farms across the country open their gates to enthusiastic customers who wish to get their ripe apples directly from the source.
Or for some of you, you might be lucky enough to have a few of these amazing trees in your yard! Either way, there will inevitably be a time when you need to store your bounty for more than a few days.
It’s great to be able to access fresh fruit year-round at the grocery store, but if you’re trying to eat what’s in season locally, you might be left missing apples at certain times of the year.
When you find yourself in this situation or, due to having healthy, mass-producing apple trees, read the info below to help keep your fruit fresh for as long as possible!
What Should I Look For?
Apples have the potential to stay fresh for up to five months if you choose the right ones and treat them carefully. If you’re trying to find something that will be great to eat many weeks after purchase, go for the varieties that are tart with thick skin.
Granny Smith apples are a perfect example. They’ll last twice as long as something like a Red Delicious. The latter has thin skin and is very sweet.
Many heirloom varieties are also long-lasting. While you’re less likely to find these as options at your grocer’s, there are many farmers that sell through farmers’ markets. The perk from buying directly from apple growers is access to the wealth of knowledge they’ve cultivated through years of work.
Heirloom apple varieties are unaltered breeds that originated hundreds of years ago and have been carefully tended to through generations for purity.
If you’re picking your own, don’t get the ones that have fallen to the ground for long-term storage purposes. They’re already too ripe. Those are best for cooking or eating within a week - and perfect for applesauce!
Are Bruises OK?
The second thing to watch out for is bruises. If you’re going to be eating them soon, bruised apples are perfectly fine. After all, they’re not supposed to be perfect, especially the organic kind! There’s nothing wrong with the flavor or freshness.
In fact, some companies will sell apples the grocery stores deem too “imperfect” to buy at a discounted rate.
If, however, you’re hoping to store them for the long term, bruises can cause ethylene. This naturally emitted gas starts the ripening process and is released faster when bruises are present.
This causes the fruit and any produce sitting around it to go bad much sooner than it would otherwise. Apricots, bananas, and pears release ethylene as well.
So do avocados. If you’ve ever been told to close an avocado in a paper bag in order to ripen it faster, you’ve used ethylene to your advantage. In short, if you find a bruised apple among the others, it’s best to separate it from the basket and eat it sooner rather than later.
Pro tip: Handle apples carefully when you’re putting them in your cart at the grocery store or transferring them to your car. In the same way that you need to be aware of your eggs or chips when packing up your groceries, consider where your apples are and be sure not to squash them with canned goods - or drop them on the ground.
Room Temperature vs. Refrigerating
This might come as a surprise to you, but apples should be stored in areas 31 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to the natural sugar in them, they don’t start to freeze until 29 degrees.
While some fruit and vegetables degrade at cold temperatures, that’s not the case for this delicious fall fruit. Keeping them cold will add weeks to their edibility window by slowing the release of ethylene.
The average fridge is kept at around 40 degrees. Most people keep their homes in the upper 60s to lower 70s this time of year. So when it comes to preserving your apples, you’re going to get more mileage out of your fridge than you are leaving them in a bowl on the counter.
In order to really extend the life of your apples, you can even get a mini-fridge and set it at a lower temperature just for them.
For most of us, realistically, the easiest thing to do is just put them next to the milk and leftover Thai food. After all, how many apples can you eat? Just remember to keep them out of the vegetable drawer or “crisper” unless there’s nothing else in there.
Even in the fridge, they’ll emit small amounts of ethylene, so if you trap other produce in with them, it’ll go bad faster. And if you can, crank down the temp as low as you can without damaging the other food in your fridge.
Humidity is Key
I used to love going to the grocery store and seeing all the produce get misted by the sprinkler system. It was like a breath of fresh air, especially in the summer. Plus, it always made the food look even more delicious.
Many grocers include apples in the misted areas because humidity helps them stay fresh. This is another ideal storage tip that can be difficult to replicate at home.
Try covering them in the fridge with a slightly dampened paper towel or, if they came in a bag, leaving them in the bag. If you choose to do the latter, just be sure to poke a few, tiny holes in the plastic to let the ethylene out while keeping some of the humidity in.
A Root Cellar: The Old Fashioned Way
For those of you with root cellars or unheated basements, you can also store apples the old-fashioned way. Even a garage will work!
For the generations, before electricity came about, being able to keep food safe to eat for long periods of time, especially during the winter, was vital to their survival.
Root cellars played a very practical role in the process. With the tips above in mind, it’s easy to see why a cool room in the ground would make a great place to keep this fruit.
When you have lots of apples you want to keep fresh for months on end, a cellar or basement is the perfect place.
Keep Em Cold - But Not Freezing
You should also note that apples shouldn’t be frozen. Remember, 31 to 35 degrees is ideal and apples don’t start to freeze until 29 degrees. Depending on where you live, your garage can definitely reach colder temps in the early months of the year.
Freezing hurts the skin and will lead to a rapid ripening period. In other words, they’ll rot. So it might be worth investing in a thermometer for the room you’re choosing to store your apples in if you choose to go this route.
It’s also worth noting that each variety ripens at a different rate, so keep like apples together and check periodically for any that are rotting or getting overly ripe.
Try An Apple Rack
An apple rack is perfect for long-term storage as it lets air circulate around each piece of fruit. If you don’t have one of these, consider using a sheet of newspaper to wrap each one individually. It’s important not to stack or let apples touch.
The newspaper will keep one spoiled apple from ruining the other apples around it. You may also want to sort by size, as the largest ones spoil the fastest.
Follow these tips, and depending on the variety, your apples will last for months! Keep in mind that some apples purchased at the grocery store have already been stored for a while, so your best bet is buying from a farmers’ market or directly from a farmer if you’re not picking your own. Enjoy! And try some of my apple recipes!
🍎 Tasty Apple Recipes!
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!