We’re at the early stages of apple season in Edmonton! The earliest of the common cultivars that are grown here are starting to ripen.
Although we still have a few months of apples ahead of us, we are starting to hear a lot of questions about how to know when an apple tree is ready to pick. It’s also worth remembering that the correct level of ripeness depends on the use for the apples. We tend to like our apples a bit more ripe for cider than we would to eat fresh.
There are also some misleading reasons it may seem like the apples are ripe, but they may not me. A few things that I would be cautious to rely on are:
- Colour – Yes many apples will develop a different colour (often red) when ripe. However, this vary a lot depending on the cultivar and how much sunlight the fruit is getting. Some apples may start developing a red blush in August, over a month before they are ready to pick!
- Falling apples – If some apples start to fall, check them a bit more closely before rushing to pick the whole tree. This can be a sign that the tree is ready to be picked, but apples get heavy and there may be some windfall before they are ripe.
There is no 100% way to know you are picking the apple at the exact perfect moment of ripeness, but here are a few suggestions to help.
1. How easy is the apple to pick?
The first step to testing an apple is to pick one. For many trees the apples will come off easily when the apples are ready. If you really have to work just to get the apple off the tree, there is a good chance it isn’t ready yet.
2. How does it taste?
Simple and straightforward, does the apple taste ripe? If it is really hard, sour and starchy, it might need more time. This one can still be tough just because the texture and flavour of apples varies so widely. But if you plan to eat the apples fresh, if it tastes good, then you are probably good to go.
3. What colour are the seeds?
If managed to pick an apple, and have a good bite, look inside to see what colour the seeds are. Once the fruit has matured, the seeds typically turn a dark brown colour. Whereas in apples that aren’t ready they are often light white/cream coloured.
4. How starchy is the apple? (Iodine Starch Test)
This may be an extra step for most uses, but we use it quite a bit for cider. As apples ripen, the starch in them turns to sugar. If you cut an apple in half you can see how much starch is left by applying an iodine solution. The iodine reacts with starch to turn a dark blue-black colour. If the apple just stays the the brown of the iodine, then it is likely ripe. The more blue-black you see, the more time it might take for maximum ripeness.
Have a great apple season!