Get The Most Out of Your Apples from Backyard Eats
When It’s Ready
- Check for mature color: Fruit should have developed their characteristic color. For apples, this can vary based on the variety, but they should be firm and fully colored.
- Look for ease of separation: Twist the fruit gently, and if it easily detaches from the branch, it is ready for harvest.
- Harvest in the morning: Harvesting in cooler temperatures helps preserve the fruit’s quality.
- Late summer to fall, depending on the variety (usually August – October)
When It’s Too Late
- Overripe fruits become soft, mealy, and may start to decay.
- Regularly check your trees to ensure you harvest the fruits at their peak ripeness.
- Hold the fruit firmly and twist it upwards or give it a gentle upward tug to detach it from the tree.
- Place the harvested fruits carefully in a container or basket, being mindful not to bruise or drop them.
- Handle the fruits with care to prevent any damage to the skin or flesh.
Begin by selecting a sunny location with well-drained soil. Plant bare-root or container-grown fruit trees in late winter or early spring, digging a hole that accommodates the root system. Ensure the bud union (graft) is above the soil level. Water the tree thoroughly after planting and add a layer of mulch around the base to conserve moisture. Prune the tree during the dormant season to shape it and remove any dead or crossing branches. Provide regular watering, especially during dry periods, and feed the tree with a balanced fruit tree fertilizer in early spring and late summer. Thin the fruit in early summer to improve size and prevent overcrowding. Protect the fruit trees from pests and diseases by practicing good garden hygiene and using organic pest control methods when necessary. As the trees mature, they will produce an abundance of delicious fruits to enjoy during the harvest season.
Fresh Storage: Keep fresh apples in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cellar, away from direct sunlight, for up to a month.
Long-Term Storage: Wrap each fruit individually in newspaper or place them in a ventilated container in a cool, humid environment, ideally around 32-40°F (0-4°C), such as a root cellar or refrigerator, for up to several months.
Cooking With Apples
- Apple Pie: Slice and cook apples with sugar, cinnamon, and a touch of lemon juice, then bake them in a pastry crust until golden and bubbly. Apple pie is a classic and comforting dessert enjoyed by many.
- Applesauce: Cook peeled and diced apples with sugar, cinnamon, and a bit of water until they soften and break down. The resulting applesauce can be enjoyed on its own, used as a topping for pancakes or oatmeal, or used as a filling for desserts.
- Apple Crisp: Combine sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon, and a squeeze of lemon juice, then top them with a crumbly mixture of oats, flour, butter, and brown sugar. Bake until the apples are tender and the topping is golden and crisp.
- Apple Muffins or Pancakes: Fold diced apples into muffin or pancake batter for a burst of sweetness and texture. Apples add moisture and flavor to these breakfast treats.
- Waldorf Salad: Combine diced apples with celery, walnuts, and raisins, then toss them with mayonnaise or a light dressing. This classic salad showcases the sweet and crunchy elements of apples.
- Apple Chutney: Cook diced apples with onions, vinegar, sugar, and spices like ginger, garlic, and chili flakes. The resulting chutney offers a sweet and tangy condiment that pairs well with cheeses, cold cuts, or curries.
- Baked Apples: Core whole apples and fill the cavity with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Bake until the apples are tender and caramelized. Serve them warm with a drizzle of caramel sauce or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.