Storing Apples

 In Fruit, Gardening tips, Grow your own, Harvesting

Storing apples should be easy and especially if you follow a few simple rules.

From time to time we enjoy a bumper harvests of tree fruits. Any year, and particularly during financially straitened times, it would be silly not to make the most of it!

apples in a basket on grass

Ashmead’s Kernel apples

Harvesting is the easy bit but storage to many still remains a hit and miss affair.






Importance of timing

Harvesting, and particularly knowing when to pick, has a great bearing on how well fruit stores.

There are some general pointers to watch out for with apples and starting to see fruit fall off the tree is one of them!

But alas these ‘fallers’ may be giving you the wrong story. Often the earliest to fall are those with the codling moth maggots inside!

Naturally, these are not worth trying to store and indeed any fruit that has fallen off the tree should be used straight away since bruised fruit will not store.


Maggots in the fruits

The codling moth problem can be addressed quite easily in future seasons by using pheromone traps to safely control this pest without sprays.

However, the pheromone tarp is most often used to indicate the best time to spray. This enables you to reduce the frequency of spraying. You see caterpillars that burrow into the fruits are only controllable when still on the outside of a fruit.

Plastic tents containing sticky pads and a synthesized pheromone should be hung in trees early May and monitored regularly. This synthetic pheromone mimics the one that female moth emit to attract a mate. Male moths are attracted to the artificial one and are trapped on the sticky pad before they have the chance to mate.


When to harvest

Anyway, enough about pest ridden fruits which we are no good to store!

How do we know when a fruit is at the optimum stage to pick and will store well?

Egremont Russet apples on a branch

Egremont Russet apples

Some apples can actually be shaken and if held close to the ear the pips can be heard to rattle. Best do this when your neighbour isn’t looking in your direction!

If the pips rattle it is a good indication that the fruit is almost ripe.

By cutting a few apples open you will be able to see the colour of the pips. If they are beginning to go brown then that is a good indicator that they are ready to pick and store.

Another pointer is that fruits easily come off the tree without having to tug them off.

Avoid grasping the fruit with your finger tips and instead cup the apple in the palm of your hand and gently lift it.

If ripe the fruit should easily come away.

If you grip with your finger tips then bruises appear within a few days. I’m sure that we have all seen this on shop bought apples and, something that really irritates me on that softest of all fruits, the strawberry!

When picking, handle each fruit with care and don’t just toss them into a bucket.

Discard any blemished fruit or any that are already showing early signs of rotting.




Brown rot

Rotten apple, brown rot

Brown rot on an apple


This is perhaps the worst rot but one that is very easily recognised.

One fruit becomes infected and through touching another, passes the disease onto its neighbour.

And so it spreads until there is a mummified cluster of dry rotting fruit full of spores.

This is how the disease is carried to other damaged fruit on the tree and even to next year’s crop!

More details on Brown rot here.


Bag storage

storing apples in thin plastic bags

Thin plastic bags filled with apples

So having carefully selected and carefully handled only the best fruit, how do we store them?

Well I have found that I have great success by storing around 1-2 kg at a time in clear polythene bags. I place these in a cool place.

I carefully fill ordinary freezer bags two thirds full, fold over the top and stand them upside down. These I place in trays in my cool, dark, airy garage.

Using a pencil, I puncture the base of the bag by putting about a half dozen holes in it.

Thin polythene will allow passage of gases but little if any moisture passes through.

This creates a good atmosphere inside the bags that slows down the natural ageing process.

It is important that the bags are checked every 10 days or so and any fruits beginning to rot are promptly removed.



Importance of varieties

Now before we get carried away and start storing every apple, there are varieties that will never store well!

But there are plenty that store very well indeed.

storing apples in bags and boxes

Bagged apples in wooden crates

Those that are early and mid season ripening varieties will not store.

So forget Beauty of Bath, Discovery, Tydeman’s Early Worcester and even Worcester Pearmain itself.

It’s debatable whether you go to the trouble of trying to store Fortune, Grenadier, Greensleeves, James Grieve and Katy.

These in my view are better consumed as soon as ripe. If you can’t eat them all then do consider juicing.



Good storing varieties


Sunset apple

Sunset apples

The ones to take the trouble over and will handsomely repay your efforts are Blenheim Orange, Egremont Russet, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Kidd’s Orange Red, Ashmead’s Kernel, Golden Delicious, Falstaff, Fiesta and many, many more!

Of the cooking varieties it’s worth storing Bountiful, Bramley Seedling, Newton Wonder and Lane’s Prince Albert.





Non storing varieties

apple juice, apples, apple blossomSo what of those fruits that don’t make the grade?

Well if you tire of apple pie then turn your odd shaped and substandard apples into delicious fruit juice!

You may not have your own juice squeezing equipment and pasteurizer but increasingly enterprising individuals are offering the service locally.

Some even personalizing the bottle label!

My new mini orchard isn’t yet producing a surplus but this image shows Ashmeads Kernel juice and stored apples that are still good when the tree is blooming again!


Further reading

If space is limited then growing intensively trained fruit is the answer. My blog here explains how. And if you want to see intensively trained fruit trees grown well then I recommend a visit to The Newt in Somerset.

To get the best quality fruit it may be necessary to thin fruits out when young. I explain fruit thinning here.

Regular and correct pruning will produce best quality fruits and it is these that store best. I have blogged about fruit tree pruning here.

Don’t miss another of my blogs! Scroll right to the bottom of this page and sign up for an alert every time I publish!

Recent Posts