Friday, August 27, 2010

How to tell if an Apple is Ripe

How can it be Friday already?  I'm very sorry but there will be no Triumphs and Tragedies this week.  We're interrupting the regular programming to bring you apples.

A whole lot of apples
Basket of Yellow Transparent apples
I came home last week to find Jody in the orchard, pondering.

There were a lot of apples on the ground beneath one tree.  He told me he had tasted one.  It may have been ripe he said.  He ate the whole thing but he still wasn't sure if it was ripe. 

Here's your first clue is an apple is ripe.  If you can eat the whole thing without your mouth turning inside out from puckering, it's ripe.

Another clue, when the apples are falling off the tree and there's no wind.  Good chance they're ripe.  Although this is deceiving as we found out.  I've spent a lot of time crawling around on the ground this week, picking up apples and biting into them.  Sometimes a sweet rush of juice runs into your mouth.  Sometimes not.  And you're on your hands and knees in the orchard spitting apple chunks into the grass.  What the neighbours must think.

I think some of our trees are infected with various diseases, fungus and insects.  Perhaps the tree knows these apples aren't any good.  No idea how a tree would know this but it seems many of these lesser quality apples fall to the ground.  When you open them up they are often discoloured and sometimes have worms in them.  

Another sign of a ripe apple is brown seeds.  The seeds of an unripened apple will still be white.  As the apple ripens so do the seeds inside them and they turn brown.  Like this.

Of course you'll have to cut into a few apples to test them but it's better than biting into them and finding out they aren't ripe.

Another thing to look for in ripening apples is change of colour.  That doesn't necessarily mean they will all turn bright red.  In fact the change might be quite subtle.  The Yellow Transparent apple below changed from a green apple to a opaque kind of yellow.  Not readily noticeable but if you're paying attention you'll see the difference.  

Which brings up a good point.  If you know what variety of apple you have you'll be better able to pinpoint at what time they're likely to be ripe.  Yellow Transparent is also known as August Apple.  The reason, quite obviously, is that they are an early apple that ripens in August.  Had we known this before we would have known to watch this tree a little closer.  In our case we have 26 trees of unknown heritage so it's a guessing game at this point.  One of the reasons we were able to identify this apple was because it ripened early.  We knew we were looking for a variety that was yellow, tart, had soft flesh and  was one of the first to ripen.  In case you've never heard of Yellow Transparent, we discovered it is an heirloom variety imported to North America from Russia in 1870.  Because it blooms earlier than other varieties it is a good pollinator for other apple varieties.  It bruises easily and does not keep well but it makes very good sauce and I can attest, very very good pies.


  1. Oh, those apples pies look scrumptious, and I always think pies taste better with homegrown apples. Around here our neighbors joke that you know the apples are almost ripe when the deer break into the gardens to eat them! :P

  2. I love this post ... great tips. I have a good deal of fallen apples... I mostly leave them for the deer and other critters.. even yellow jackets and wasps love them ... so be careful when picking them up and biting into them! ;>(( Your pie looks yummy! Hope you have a great harvest! Lots of apple sauce this winter for me.

  3. Send me a pie and I'll let you know if the apples were ripe enough.

  4. Curbstone Valley - thank goodness we have no deer! Although many of the apples have suspicious looking bites out of them, some certainly are birds but we've been debating whether raccoons and skunks would also eat apples?

    Carol - We're learning a lot as we go. My parents used to have apples so I had some idea of what I was doing but without knowing what sort of apples you have it can be a bit confusing. Luckily haven't been stung yet!

    Wiseacre - Darn, you weren't quite quick enough, the pie is gone already. We're now on to cider and apple chips. Next post, how many ways can you cook an apple...

  5. Fresh apple pie! Your making me drool! It's good to know about the colour of the seeds. That seems like a fairly easy and quick way to check! I long for apple trees....