Creating a Winter Larder: Apples
by Jennifer Bain
If you have been growing your own this year, you may be wondering what to do with all those crops you nourished so tenderly / neglected but which nevertheless have managed to provide you with more produce than you could possibly want, almost as if to boast “You thought I would never amount to anything but look at me now! This garden is mine! Ha ha ha ha ha….”
Once your children begin complaining about the ridiculous abundance of apple puddings this week and your neighbours, once so thrilled by a bag of Bramleys, are no longer quite so pleased with your bountiful gifts, and even the thieves have given up on their thievery, it’s time to store all that fruit away for a cold, wintry night when you find yourself drifting into nostalgia for those autumnal days of apple pie aplenty…
First things first: you must pick and sort them. If you are intending to store your fruit for any decent amount of time it is vitally important to pick and choose correctly.
Choose a box or basket with a rigid base Line the bottom with hay to keep the pressure evenly dispersed. Putting the apples in a bag will cause them to move about and bruise.
Pick carefully. Place apples gently into your box or basket to avoid bruising. Handle them as if they were eggs.
Need assistance? If you are picking apples at height, get an assistant to hand them to. No target practice. (NB. Wearing a hard hat and standing back a little is recommended; no matter how careful you are, some apples are bound to fall.)
Consider using two boxes at a time: One for keepers and one for apples not suitable for storage. See below.
Keep different apple varieties separate. Some apples keep better than others. As a general rule, you should use earlier-ripening varieties first.
Categorising your apples:
Choosing which apples to put into storage and which ones to use is important. Put a bad apple in with the good ‘uns and you’ll soon find it exerting it’s rotten influence far and wide. But remember, just because an apple has some damage, doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. Just cut out the bad bits.
Storing Your Apples:
Put the immediate eaters aside. You can put them in the fridge if you like, maybe leaving a couple out in plain sight to encourage your kids/significant other to snack on them… Consider refusing to buy any other fruit, (or biscuits, or crisps or sweeties) until your family and guests have depleted the entire stock.
Find a cool, dark place to store the rest. The cooler the better but make sure it’s frost-free. A basement or garden shed would be ideal.
Keep them away from vegetables and any pungent substances. Apples give off gases which age vegetables. If possible, store them away from other fruit too.
If your apples are in perfect condition, damp air will keep them from losing moisture. The undamaged skin will keep mould from forming.
Apples with signs of damage are best kept somewhere drier. Keep them accessible as these should be checked more often and used sooner.
If possible, give them an airy surface to rest on such as slatted shelves or a stack of crates. If you’re lucky enough to have a wine rack in your cellar (but not so lucky that it is full of wine) then now might be the time to use it. Arrange the apples spread out in single layers. Try to keep them apart from each other.
Alternatively, spread them out on newspaper. If you have enough space, spread out a thick layer of newspaper and arrange the apples in a single layer on top, again being careful not to let them touch.
If space is limited, layer them in a box (preferably a breathable one) with newspaper. Put newspaper at the bottom followed by a layer of (non-touching) apples, followed by another layer of newspaper, then more apples and so on. For added protection, you may wish to individually wrap each apple in a single sheet of newspaper.
These will be used to make apple juice at Ravenscraig Walled Garden for our Apple Day event this Saturday the 19th of October! You can bring your own fruit along to be pressed too!
Check your apples regularly for signs of damage or rot. If an apple looks as if it’s going bad, separate it from the others immediately. No need to waste it. Just cut out any nasty bits and put them on your compost heap (if you have one) and eat/cook the rest. If it’s fine but badly shrivelled and not very tasty, consider giving any apple-tolerant pets a treat or slice it up and put it on a bird table.
Alternatively, try giving any apples that don’t quite meet your standards to your mum, dad or grandparent. (They might be less fussy than you.) Or… peel it, stew it with a little sugar, leave to cool, mash it up and feed it to the baby, but only with your parents’/wife’s permission!
Truly rotten or mouldy apples are not fit for consumption. Fling ’em on the compost heap.
Sources and further information:
This blog is based on my own opinions, formed by a combination of experience (namely, my mother’s), common sense and, no doubt, from tips picked up over the years from gardening programmes and websites. It is by no means prescriptive.
A recent episode of Gardener’s World began with Monty Don picking apples for storage on an old bakery bread rack. You can still catch this on BBC iPlayer, episode 25.
For those who want in-depth detail about different storage methods including discussions on humidity and storage in sand, I recently came across a chapter entitled Keeping Apples, taken from “The Gardener’s Monthly and Horticulturist V23” (Thomas Meehan, 1881). Although written over a century ago, it makes a fascinating read!