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Apples are ready to pick when the skin color deepens and the fruit comes away easily from the tree. The presence of windfalls is a good indication that fruits are ready to pick. Not all apples are ready at the same time, so pick regularly as individual clusters become ripe. Apples at the sides and top of the tree will usually ripen first because they receive more sunlight. If in doubt — taste one!
To pick an apple, cup it in your hand, lift, and twist gently. It should detach along with its stalk. Always handle apples gently to avoid bruising them, and never tug an apple from the tree or you may damage the fruiting spurs or cause apples nearby to drop. Use a stepladder to reach apples higher up on the tree, but take care to avoid over-reaching in case you lose your balance.
Early season varieties are best eaten soon after harvesting as they don’t store well. Midseason varieties will store for a few weeks, and late season varieties should be good for up to six months. Apples destined for storage must be in perfect condition. Check stored apples regularly and remove any that are going soft, brown, or rotting.
Store your apples in a cool but frost-free, dark, well-ventilated place such as a shed or garage. Store apples on slatted trays to ensure good air circulation. Make sure they don’t touch, or else wrap them in newspaper. Different varieties store for different lengths of time — keep them separate and use those with a shorter storage life sooner.
If you’ve got too many apples to store, there are many ways to preserve them — stew and freeze them, dehydrate them, turn them in jams, jellies, chutneys, or sauces, or press them and make juice, wine, or even hard cider!
Learn more about harvesting, storing, and preserving apples in this video.
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