When are apples ripe?

sautesmomJuly 10, 2007

I have some 3 in 1 apple trees, and this is their first year with a couple of apples. One branch they are getting REALLY big (I've propped them up with a tomato cage) and I am at a loss to know when to pick them. I have Mutsu, Queen Cox and Granny Smith and one other I can't think of right now. I know if they are over-ripe, they get mealy.

Any advice about picking?

Oh, and I have the same question about my 3 in 1 pears too.

Carla in Sac

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Lots of different ways. Some more complicated than others. Let's move from simple to complicated.

1.) When apples fall from the trees (not windfalls, but actually give in to gravity)

2.) When cupping and twisting the apple causes it to separate easily from the spur

3.) Tasting the apple. If it tastes like you expect that variety to taste (i.e. sweet, tart, whatever) then it's ripe

4.) Examine the seeds. If they're dark brown, the apple is in the ripeness ballpark (although it may not be at the peak of flavor)

5.) Use one of those charts that gives the range of days after full bloom when an apple is expected to be ripe, making sure to allow for your climate

6.) Google PYO orchards in your area. They often will give a range of when a particular variety is ripe.

7.) Test the starch content in the apple by using an iodine solution as an indicator. A not-quite-ripe apple will have higher starch content.

So, take your pick. The one indicator that is probably least accurate is color. Now, obviously, if you're growing Jonathans and they're still green, they're probably not ripe. But coloration in varieties is highly regional and there is even a lot of variation between sports within a given variety. The "Super Red" Empire apples vs the traditional Empire, etc.

I know how hard it can be the first couple of fruiting seasons. There are scarecly any apples to waste if you should happen to get one that isn't yet at its peak. But, even so, if it's close to ripe it's going to be a great experience to chomp down on your own, home-grown apple and it'll likely taste better than anything you could buy at the supermarket.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 6:30PM
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Some apples also give an aroma when ripe (and overripe) don't they?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 7:01PM
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And as to pears:

RE: pears http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg101057145319.html?2

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* Posted by lucky_p z6 W.KY (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 13, 06 at 13:03

From a friend of mine who's spent his life growing fruits and fruit trees, and used to operate one of the foremost fruit nurseries in the eastern US:

"Most all European pears (exception is the new Green Jade), require post-picking chill to properly mature. Or, when fruit exhibit slight color changes, begin to test pressure (using your thumb) near the stem. When there is a slight "give", pick all the fruit, store at or near 35 degrees for 7 or more days. Then you can remove them as needed, allow them to sit at room temps for 2-4 days which allows them to ripen to peak flavor.
Years ago, I got a letter from an older NAFEX fellow who told me that European types were very difficult to ripen due to varietal quirks or requirements in post harvest handling. He said "If you live long enough to learn how to properly ripen 10 varieties, you'll be lucky".
I'm still working on it!!!"

Good luck,


    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 8:52PM
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At your Zone 9 you can pretty much throw ripening charts out the window.

Here in So. Calif. I'm just about ready to harvest Braeburn, Rome Beauty, Ashmead's Kernel, Royal Limbertwig, Hawaii, and Gala. We already harvested Williams Pride, Whitney Crab (both really good!), and of course Anna and Dorsett Golden. But the same trees are also still flowering, so we'll get some more around October and November.

Rome Beauty hasn't really colored up, but Whitney Crab was a deep red that attracted birds. So you can't count on color or charts; the lift-and-twist does quite well. The best indication however is the raccoon that steals the one you've had your eye on waiting for it to get just right. They're very particular and have excellent taste in apples.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 12:01AM
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nimzo(z9 CA)


Tell me a little bit about Royal Limbertwig. What's it like?


    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 8:43PM
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Royal Limbertwig was developed in 1896 at the University of Illinois Experiment Station (same folks that are part of PRI that developed Gold Rush in the 1990's). It's a greenish apple with a red blush that is fine-grained, juicy, tender, and mildly sweet-tart. It is said to make killer apple butter.

It has not yet developed the long, droopy branches associated with the limbertwig family. It does well in warm winters and hot summers, and is supposed to ripen in October, but ours is ready in a couple weeks. It bore heavily in the 2nd year.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 12:20AM
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