Fall is the season for apple picking! Rodale Institute is proud to offer the option for families to pick their own apples in our organic orchard during our annual Organic Apple Festival. As we prepare for our 8th annual festival, we're taking the time to share apple picking (and preparing) tips.
In the 1980's, Rodale Institute partnered with Cornell University to determine best practices for growing apples organically. Previously thought to be impossible, the Institute successfully grew a wide variety of apples without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and continue to produce quality organic fruit today. Apples are known to be affected by over 40 insect and mite pests each season. Due to consumer demand for blemish-free, perfectly shaped fruits, conventional apple growers use more pesticides per acre than almost any other crop grower.
For protection, our apples are sprayed with a natural kaolin clay-based barrier along with pheromones that interfere with insect pests finding mates. The protectant prevents up to 50% of the sunlight from burning the apple's skin and makes it harder for insects to land on the fruit. This results in our orchards containing the most diverse selections of scab-resistant apple varieties grown in one location.
Our farm boasts many varieties of apples, including some that are not commercially available. Regardless of the type, the following tips should be considered for all apples:
The Pulling Up Method
To pick apples without harming next year's crop, we recommend grabbing apples from the bottom and pulling up - do not pull down. If the apples are ripe, the fruit should easily break away from the branch at the stem. Most apples are ripe when the stem of the apple can be easily removed from the spur of the branch.¹
Work Your Way Up
We recommend only picking apples from the trees and not off the ground. A tree with apples littered on the ground beneath it is likely to be past ripe for picking.¹ Typically, apples should be picked from the bottom of the tree first.¹ At Rodale Institute, we provide apple pickers. For safety reasons, we ask visitors to not climb trees or use ladders to pick apples.
Beware of the Pollinators
Bees and wasps are present during apple picking. Although we appreciate the beneficial work of pollinators, they will harm you if provoked. In case you are stung during Apple Festival, proceed to the Garden Store for medical attention.
Picking apples slightly on the tart side, as well as making sure none have bruises, allows them to be stored longer. Bruised apples rot the fastest and will rot other apples if put in the same bag. This is why it is important to gently place apples in the bag, so that they do not bruise to begin with.¹
Apples with a Purpose
After picking apples, the first thought that typically comes to mind is whether to bake a pie or cake. The Apple Cookbook - now available at the Garden Store and will be available during Apple Festival - shares over 120 apple-themed recipes. Recipes do include the traditional pies and cakes, such as Apple Bourbon Cake, as well as unexpected dishes, like Apple Meatloaf and Ground Lamb Kebabs. Other than baking and cooking, apples are just as delicious when the fruit is simply consumed.
Our annual apple picking event also includes live music and more than 40 vendors of organic foods and lifestyle goods. Wagon rides and farm games, such as the popular Rotten Apple Rocket, are free for families to enjoy. With tips on how to pick, store and prepare apples, we now encourage you to attend Rodale Institute's 8th Annual Organic Apple Festival!