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Fall Harvest Apples

By James Parker, September 29, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by James Parker

It seems that most times I don’t notice apples. In my home we almost always have them around but they are like milk, juice or any other basic staple we buy every week. We eat apples less in the summer when there are so many other great domestic fruits available, but apples always seem to make it on our shopping list. The only time apples rise above the normal buzz of my daily life is when they are absent; gaps in available supply (like we had in August and early September this year) really stand out with a commodity so common and reliable.

Predicting the fall apple and pear harvest dates here in the US is always hard. Apples are grown in just about every part of the country so with weather as wild and varied as it has been this summer, pinpointing exactly when the fruit will be ready has been more difficult than most years. Additionally, fruit importers from the southern hemisphere ship their fruit before the expected domestic harvest. When the domestic harvest comes late, there will inevitably be a gap in supply. By late September we have made the transition from summer to fall fruit at our stores, but only now are we seeing harvest volumes start to build to support the change.

Another factor affecting this year’s harvest is fruit size. Apple trees are alternate bearing — meaning every other year the fruit load is larger or smaller depending on the life cycle of the tree. 2011 is a “low” bearing year so this means there are fewer apples on the tree. When this happens, average fruit sizing tends to be higher and takes longer to mature as a consequence. This, in addition to cool summertime weather conditions on the west coast (where most of the country’s organic production is located), were the biggest factors in the delay. Like other tree fruit, apples have early and late bearing varieties. Softer, low-density fruit tends to come off first (like Gala, Gravenstein, Gold and Macintosh types) followed by denser, slower-maturing varieties like Fuji and Pink Lady later in the autumn.  Even the late-maturing apples have new sub-varieties that mature faster, but like most fruit the flavor is best in the early varieties. Like peaches, the best early varieties are determined by where you happen to be standing in the US. In my part of the country the best early variety is hands down the Jonagold. A cross between a Golden Delicious and Jonathan, the Jonagold is crisp, sweet and juicy with none of the early starchiness common with new crop apples. Of course the early apple everyone is waiting for is the Honeycrisp — a wonderfully flavorful apple that has exploded in popularity in recent years.

Thankfully, the weather has cooperated in the last few weeks and apples are showing up in larger volumes at our stores and in farmers markets. Depending on where you are, the effects of the great apple supply gap of 2011 have diminished and we are all awash in wonderful new crop fruit. Apples (Jonagold!) and peanut butter are on the menu again as a breakfast staple and I am back to taking apples for granted. Maybe not as much as before — apples, it seems, are a big part of our world.

Category: Produce




Ryan Bradley says ...
I get the Fiji Apples all the time at my Whole Foods. They're the best.
09/30/2011 3:12:27 PM CDT
PiaL says ...
Honeycrisps are back! And at a fairly reasonable price rather than the usual exorbitant $3.99/lb. Keep 'em low please.
10/05/2011 2:49:20 PM CDT
Lynn says ...
Thank you for the update! I too have taken apples for granted. I am a granny smith lover and its been about a month that I have not been able to pick them up. I truly missed them as my daily snack. The only good thing that came out of the timing/shortage was the fact I tried golden delicious and actually love them.
10/05/2011 3:59:00 PM CDT
Ben says ...
Honeycrisps truly have enjoyed a rapid rise to popularity over the past decade, but I wonder what the next new premium apple will be? There's talk about the potential of the SweetTango developed in Minnesota and now being grown in the NorthWest, but in my opinion still does not exceed the sought-after flavor/texture of the honeys. As a produce buyer, Honeys are out of the range of an average middle class apple customer, and maybe I'm just hopeful that another variety will curb some of the demand for the honeys so more of the population can enjoy them. Call it produce Marxism
10/05/2011 5:27:12 PM CDT
Adam says ...
I'm never without at least a handful of apples on hand, luckily I wasn't too affected bybthe shortage and didn't have to do without them for any period of time.. but it's nice to see them all over the produce department again :) My very favorite is the Ambrosia apple, they didn't show up until later in the season last year, and I haven't seen any yet, so hopefully they'll arrive later on again
10/05/2011 6:56:24 PM CDT
Jerri says ...
I love cooking apples as a side dish. My family loves the sweet cinnamon taste and I love sneaking in fiber to our diets. Here's how I do it - http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2009/06/apple-of-my-eye.html?m=0
10/06/2011 12:45:49 PM CDT
Frank says ...
An apple a day keeps the doctor away:) make mine a Gala please.
10/08/2011 5:42:07 PM CDT
Connie says ...
I'm looking for heirloom apples. There are 4 top picks which are Hidden Rose, Ashmead's Kernel, Winesap and Tompkins King. These apples can be odd-shaped and even ugly, belying their delicious flavor. I hope Whole Foods gets at least one of these apples!
10/08/2011 8:54:36 PM CDT
Ginny says ...
Speaking of heirloom apples, I wonder if Whole Foods will ever get the Baldwin variety. I've heard they are best for pies.
10/10/2011 4:25:03 PM CDT
parkerj says ...
Hi Lynn- Organically grown Granny Smith apples started coming off the trees the 1st week of Oct so depending on where you are you should start seeing them soon if not already. Hi Connie and Ginny- most heirloom varieties are produced on such a small scale that we don't buy and ship them like we do the more common varieties. These are purchased regionally (even locally) so I could not give you reliable information on availability. I will tell you the best place to find locally produced heirlooms is at your farmers market as well as at your local store (that where I get mine). Ginny I know a farmer here that has exactly one Baldwin tree on his farm and yes, it is great for baking
10/11/2011 1:06:32 PM CDT
parkerj says ...
sorry sent to soon Ginny- I don't know of any growers that produce the Baldwin commercially. As I understand it they are a very late maturing apple and are a early frost risk as a result
10/11/2011 1:10:46 PM CDT
Miike says ...
when does the Hidden Rose apple mature?
08/19/2012 3:03:43 PM CDT
nikki.newman says ...
@MIIKE - Typically Hidden Rose apples are available from late fall through early winter. Double check with your local store to make sure they have them in stock! Get their contact information at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.
08/20/2012 2:09:45 PM CDT
debbie says ...
Do you know where you can get organic cortland apples?
10/01/2012 2:11:19 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DEBBIE - Since all of our products vary between regions, I would suggest reaching out to your local store to see if they carry them. You can find their contact info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.
10/01/2012 5:21:25 PM CDT
gail Stephens says ...
What is the name of the teeny tiny apples that we see in the fall at Whole Foods. Thanks
07/21/2014 2:47:07 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@GAIL - If I were to guess, it's possible you are looking for crab apples. I would suggest reaching out to the Produce department at your local store to see if they can recall the specific type.
07/21/2014 4:03:20 PM CDT
Ed says ...
Kiku apples are the best. But don't tell anyone.
09/28/2015 9:53:38 PM CDT