Have you ever wondered why you're able to buy U.S. grown apples at the grocery store in June? Washington state, where 58% of U.S. apples are grown, ends its harvest in November, according to Pick Your Own. New York, second to Washington in number of apples produced, is usually done harvesting by the end of October.
So how do U.S. apples end up in the produce section months after harvest ends?
It's all in the storage, reports Business Insider.
Apples harvested in late summer and fall that will be sold by December are refrigerated in giant warehouses that are kept at 34-38 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 1 to 3 degrees Celsius). Apples slated to be sold later also go into storage where the atmosphere is controlled. The oxygen there is dropped from 21% to 2% to stop the apple from ripening.
The nutrition in the the months-old apples remains virtually the same as in the just-picked ones, but anyone who has ever had an in-season apple from a local farm and an apple in June from the grocery probably recognizes the quality isn't the same. The texture may not be as crisp in the older apples.
Tips for long-term apple storage at home
What if you come by a windfall of apples in the fall because you've gone apple picking, or there was such a good deal at the farmers market that you couldn't pass up bringing home a trunk full? Chances are, you can't keep them all in your refrigerator, and you don't have the ability to put them in reduced-oxygen storage. What can you do?
You may not be able to store them as long as a warehouse can, but if you have the right varieties, you can store apples for about three or four months before they start to dry up or get mealy. Thicker-skinned apples like Fuji, Rome and Granny Smith will store longer than thinner-skinned apples like Delicious or Gala.
First, pick out any that are bruised, soft or damaged. One bad apple really will spoil the whole bunch. Don't store the damaged apples with the other apples. After you've sorted them, here are some tips for keeping the undamaged ones from spoiling for a few months, depending on the varieties.
- Separate varieties, since not all varieties ripen at the same rate. Make note of which varieties are thinner skinned and can't be stored as long, noting to use them up first.
- Store apples by variety in boxes with newspaper separating the layers. Apples in a single layer should not touch each other. You can also wrap each apple individually in newspaper for extra protection.
- Wrap each box in plastic — putting a garbage bag around them will do — to help keep in moisture.
- Alternately, if you have plastic food coolers that you won't be using over the winter, placing the apples with the newspaper in them and sealing their lids will help keep in moisture.
- Store the boxes in a dry and cool area like a closed-in porch, a basement or an attic, but don't let the apples freeze. If the apples get frozen, they will turn to mush as they thaw.
- Check on the apples frequently for signs of damage. Pull out the damaged ones.
- Larger apples usually soften before small apples, so use them up first.
- Don't store apples near potatoes or onions.
If you have many apples that have started to soften, they may not be enjoyable to eat raw, but they can be cooked. Try one of these recipes: