When Do We Start Picking Apples?
The heat and humidity does not slow down our hard working MG Hurd employees, but a bit of rain may. We started picking apples this 2018 season! Well not all of them, our 1st two varieties, Jersey Macs & Ginger Golds. Each apple variety has its own unique ready to pick time between late July and early November. Mother nature has a lot to do with it. A lot of work goes into determining when to start harvesting these early varieties. We will actually pick apples from the same tree 3 or 4 separate times over the course of a few weeks because not all apples ripen at once. Learn how we decide when to send our picking crew out into the orchard.
Before we step foot outside there is research that needs to be done on the computer. We keep records going back generations of exactly when we professionally pick each apple variety. The earliest variety, Jersey Macs, will set the pace for the season. Every day we log how many bushels of each variety are picked, where they are picked from, who picks them, and the quality of the fruit. Below is a chart that shows data from the 1st day we picked Jersey Macs in the last 4 seasons.
The other piece of data that needs to be collected is the number of “growing degree days” (GDDs). GDDs are an accumulation of heat units. They are calculated by taking the average of the high and low temperature, subtracting the base temp of 50, and then keeping a running total. Degree Days can be used for a variety of applications including predicting when insects will start to come out. Different bases are used for different species. For more information on degree days check out the UMass site. You can visit Cornell University’s NEWA Degree Day Calculator to find the degree days in your area. This count helps us to predict when the apple trees will bloom and also when the apples will be ready to pick. The following information came from the New Paltz weather station. As you can see this was a much hotter year than the previous two.
The historical data gives us a pretty good idea of when we will head out to pick Jersey Macs & Ginger Golds each year, but we are also always looking at our baby apples for clues. We will spend more time with our Jersey Macs & Ginger Golds in late July to look for the amount of color, redness or goldness, on the apples. We know an apple is ready to pick if it has at least 50 percent color.
Looking at the inside of the apple is just as important as the outside. We pick a few apples with 50 percent color, measure them with sizing rings, and cut them in half. Most ripe apples should have no white seeds, only brown. After cutting an apple in half you may find alternate causes to the apple looking ripe and red. You know an apple is ripe enough to pick when you gently lift and turn the bottom towards the sky and it falls off in the palm of your hand. Please no twisting and pulling.
The next test requires some fancier equipment, a fruit penetrometer, to do a pressure test. A pressure test is used to gauge how ripened or soft the apple is. We pick a couple apples that have at least 50 percent color. Using a special fruit peeler we cut a thin slice off 2 opposite sides of the apple. Ideally you want to choose the sides opposite each other with the least and most color. Carefully insert a zeroed penetrometer into the apple until the small cylinder on the end is completely flush with the apples surface. Record the pressure and repeat with opposite side. Some apple varieties are softer, less pressure, than others. Jersey Macs should have a pressure of at least 14ps when fully matured. Our samples on August 4 th were 14.5, 16.5, 17, & 18ps.
Sometimes Mother Nature makes her own decision as to when the apples are ready to leave their tree. Warm weather causes ripened apples to drop off the tree. When apples start to drop it really increases the pressure to get them picked as fast as possible. That said, if it is raining, especially like it was on Friday where it was like getting buckets of water dumped on your head, you cannot pick. Safety of our crew is one of our top priorities at MG Hurd and Sons.
We sent the team out in the apple orchard to pick our 1st apples on August 6th this year. This included 946 bushels of Jersey Macs and 340 bushels of Ginger Golds. They used both the picking platform and traditional ladders. The apples are taken directly to cold storage to keep them nice and fresh. The next stop is the packing house so we can get them ready for the grocery store.
Visit our pick your own page to see when we expect other varieties to be ready. The weeks listed are the peak picking time for the variety which is a little later than we expect the very first pick to be. That said, the weather could make the dates a bit earlier or later. It is also important to note that once ripened, apples will fall off the tree, so we will pick the trees of all apples on the last pick. This is why you will not find honey crisps in October.
See you at the farm this fall where you can PICK YOUR OWN apples (and pumpkins). Sign up for our emails for up to date variety info and special offers. You can also give us a call to find out what is ready to pick each week. We will be open August 18th, 19th, 25th, & 26th. Starting September 1st we are open every day through November 4th. Hope to see you there!