When the trees begin to change colors, you know it's time to visit an orchard to start apple picking!
Many Chicago area families like to head to orchards in nearby Michigan. But with close to 15 different varieties of Michigan apples, how do you know what apple to pick? Jennifer Bixby from Bixby Orchards in Berrien Springs, Michigan has some tips and interesting facts about the popular and versatile fruit.
Prime Apple Picking Season is in September. Different varieties ripen at different times.
Cool temperatures and heavy summer rains have apple growers in Michigan anticipating one of the state's best apple crops in over a decade.
Apples are Michigan's largest and most valuable fruit crop, with a "farm gate" value to the growers of about $100 million annually.
Value-added marketing and processing efforts are estimated to enhance the annual economic contribution of Michigan Apples from $700-$900 million.
There are over 7.5 million apple trees in commercial production, covering 37,500 acres on 950 family-operated farms throughout Michigan's Lower Peninsula.
Longtime favorite varieties still dominate Michigan's orchards. The most prevalent variety remains the Red Delicious, followed closely by the Golden Delicious. The Gala is rapidly gaining on tradition, however.
The Honeycrisp variety continues to grow in popularity. Look for it in September and October, and enjoy it while you can, as it will most likely be gone by year end! A growing number of Honeycrisp tree plantings still aren't keeping pace with its popularity among consumers! Honeycrisp has a crisp, juicy bite and a sweet flavor. They are best for fresh eating and also a great addition to salads!
APPLE PICKING TIPS:
First, determine your usage--bake or fresh
Use a reliable guide to pick a U-Pick Orchard location, like the one available from michiganapples.com.
Talk with the apple orchard owner before you start picking. When going to a U-Pick ask lots of questions! The staff will be very reliable and helpful and happy to point you in the direction of trees with the ripest apples.
Apples should easily come off the tree if they are ready.
Twisting the apple off the branch is the easiest way to pick an apple.
Look for good color if the variety should have color (a Gala should be red just like a golden delicious should be golden-yellow).
Ask if you can sample! If it tastes "green" it is not ripe!
Never pick the apples off the ground -- always get them off the tree
CARING FOR APPLES AT HOME:
Apples bruise easily so handle them gently
Refrigerate in the crisper section; cool air helps maintain quality
Store apples in a ventilated bag away from foods with strong odors