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How To Harvest and Store Apples

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Close up of ripe apples on tree branch with a farmhouse in the background
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The sun is shining, the air is crisp and cool, and our apple trees are loaded with fruit. It’s a great time of the year!

A young girl picks red apples from a tree
Fall apple picking is a great time of year!

Many cultivars are ready to be picked now. If you are not sure, an apple is ready for picking when its background skin color turns from green to yellow. The fruit comes off easily when harvested.

Ripening apple apple, mostly red with some green-yellow
The background color of the apple skin will turn from green to yellow when the
is ripe.

Use an upward and twisting motion when harvesting fruit. Do not yank down on branches. This can tear off the knobby, branch spurs (shown near the fruit stem in middle photo), where next year’s fruits will come.

Apples on trees can tolerate temps approaching 26°F before frost damage occurs. If they freeze on the tree, wait for the fruits to thaw before harvesting. Frozen fruits should be used promptly.

Store fruits in a cool (34–40°F), humid (90% RH), dark place. A refrigerator is best, but a root cellar or unheated garage is acceptable.

Piles of harvested, ripe apples in crates
Store apples in a cool, humid and dark place.

complete list of recommended apple cultivars for North Dakota is available.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of camknowsMichael E. and U.S. Department of Agriculture.