This story was originally published in November 2020.
There’s nothing like biting into a fresh fall apple. If you stocked up on apples to enjoy later in the year, properly storing the fruit is the difference between a crispy treat and an unpleasant mushy surprise.
The trick is extending the life of the fruit once it has been picked. Apples quickly soften and become mealy in texture if stored improperly. To keep them tasting fresh weeks and even months after they come out of an orchard, apples should be kept refrigerated.
“The sooner you get them into cold storage, the longer they will last,” said Renea Moran, fruit tree specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Highmoor Farm. “You should store them as cold as the apples will tolerate, which is just above freezing.”
The kinds of storage conditions that commercial growers use to store their produce are colder than most people’s refrigerators, Moran said. But she added that your kitchen refrigerator will work just fine to keep your apples fresh for several weeks.
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“The sooner you get your apples into a refrigerator, the longer they will last,” Moran said. “If you get them in there quickly they should last about a month.”
Leaving them out on the counter in a bowl or basket might look pretty, Moran said, but it dramatically decreases the storage life of the apple. At room temperatures apples last five to seven days before they begin to lose their flavor and start to shrivel or get mushy.
Apples can also be stored in a root cellar or in a closet in an unheated area of your house for two or three weeks, according to Moran. But she recommends checking the fruit to make sure any that may be spoiling or becoming overripe are not ruining the ones around it.
“Apples give off a gas called ethylene that tells the apples it’s time to start ripening,” Moran said. “Putting them in cold storage slows that down.”
The type of apple you are storing also makes a difference, Moran said.
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A Macintosh, for example, is already turning soft when you pick it from the tree.
“It’s just what macs do,” Moran said with a laugh. “They don’t like to be crispy.”
Honeycrisp apples do well over time in cold storage as do Cortlands and Macouns.
Something to keep in mind for next year is when to pick any apples you plan to store, Moran said, adding it’s always a balance between texture and flavor.
“An apple picked early, before it’s completely ripe will maintain its crispness longer,” she said. “People who picked their apples at the end of the season have an apple with a better flavor, but you will have a tougher time keeping that flavor over time in storage.”