Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about apples, and our orchard in general...
How do you know which apples are ready? How long will you have (my favorite variety/grade of apple)?
"Ask the farmer!"
Okay, so you're lost in the Pick-Your-Own block, here's what you do: Select firm, well colored, bruise-free apples. The color can be anything from green to yellow, pink, orange, bright red, dark red or even a striped combination. It all depends on the variety.
Really, the key will be to ask the farmer which are ripe. He/she will know because it is calculated from the number of days since the trees flowered. The farmer will also know which characteristics to look for in the particular varieties that he is growing.
Apples ripen from the outside of the tree towards the center, so the apples out the outside of the tree will ripen first. Another trick is to check the seeds; seeds should be brown to dark brown when the apple is ripe...then comes the taste test!
If you see the variety (Honeycrisp, River Belle, Zestar & etc.) you like or a specific grade ( #1, #2, or #3) at Maple Ridge Orchard....get it now. We have no way to guarantee we will still have YOUR FAVORITE(S) when you visit us again!
What is the correct way to pick an apple?
Picking apples directly from a tree is easy. Roll the apple upwards off the branch and give a little twist; don't pull straight away from the tree. If two apples are joined together at the top, get ready to catch, because both will come away at the same time. Do not shake the trees or branches, more fruit will fall unnecessarily. If the apple you are trying to pick drops, (or others on the tree) go ahead and pick it up; they're perfectly fine!
Are your apple trees sprayed?
All our apple trees are sprayed several times over the growing season. The need to spray is largely due to our midwesten climate. During the growing season we have warm, wet conditions with frequent rains. This is ideal weather for growing crops, but it is also ideal for insects, diseases, and weeds. The more you grow of any one crop the bigger the problem. While one tree in your backyard may escape some pests, many trees tend to attract and harbor lots of pests.
To lessen the amount of pesticides in the environment and save money, we try to spray only when it is necessary. Chemicals are our greatest expense after labor in growing apples (close to $8,000.00 per year). We would love to not use any insecticides/fungicides, however this is just not practical. We do use a technique called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to help lessen the amount of spraying and cost. An example would be controlling mites. European Red Spider Mites are extremely small spiders that attack apples by sucking the juices from the leaves. These mites can actually kill all the leaves on the tree. Luckily, they have several natural enemies like ladybugs, lacewings, and other mites. We try to use insecticides that do not kill these natural predators, but encourage them to kill the harmful mites.
Another reason we need to spray is disease. Unlike insects, diseases generally must be prevented in the first place rather than eradicated later. A disease called scab is a very real problem, yet it can be managed with the application of a fungicide as early as "green-tip."
You can find organically grown apples in some stores along with other fruits and vegetables. You must realize most of these are grown in a desert-like environments where disease and insect pressure are greatly reduced and water is almost totally supplied by precious irrigation water. Here in Wisconsin we must continue to spray to grow a saleable, high quality crop of apples.
How long will your La Crosse area orchard be open for 2016? Is it safe to eat apples off the tree?
Maple Ridge Orchard will be open through Saturday, November 5th, 2016. We hope we leave you wanting more in 2017 and look forward to seeing you (at least) one more time before we close! We love our customers, and every new year is a "family" reunion for us. Without you, our valued customer, we would not be here. Thank you.
Generally it is safe to eat apples right off the tree even though they have been sprayed. Time, sunlight, and rain all work to break down the spray compounds. We stop spraying all the trees early-mid August, so in September/October, any residue you see is totally benign! The dirt you may see on the apples is simply rain and dirt from the wind. They are perfectly safe to eat.
Apple Fun Facts!
- 2500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States.
- 7500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world.
- About 100 different varieties of apples are grown commercially in the United States.
- A bushel of apples typically weighs about 42 lbs.
- Apples are grown commercially in 36 states.
- Apples are grown in all 50 states.
- 61% of United States apples are eaten as fresh fruit.
- The other 39% of apples are processed into apple products.
- The top apple producing state is Washington, producing over 60% of the nations apples.
- About 69 million tonnes of apples were grown worldwide in 2010, and China produced almost half of this total.
- Apples are a great source of the fiber pectin. One apple has five grams of fiber.
- In 2001 there were 8,000 apple growers with orchards covering 430,200 acres. In 2005, there were 7,500 apple growers with orchards covering 379,000 acres.
- The pilgrims planted the first United States apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- Apple varieties range in size from a little larger than a cherry to as large as a grapefruit.
- Apples are a member of the rose family.
- Apples harvested from an average full size tree can fill 20 bushel boxes that weigh 42 pounds each.
- 25 percent of an apple's volume is air. That is why they float.
- It takes the energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple.
- Apples are the second most valuable fruit grown in the United States. Oranges are first.
- In colonial time apples were called winter banana or melt-in-the-mouth.
- China is the leading producer of apples with nearly 1.5 billion bushels grown annually; The U.S. is number 2.
- Newton Pippin apples were the first apples exported from America in 1768, some were sent to Benjamin Franklin in London.
- One of George Washington's hobbies was pruning his apple trees. (It's one of ours, too!)
- America's longest-lived apple tree was reportedly planted in 1647 by Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard and was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.
- A bushel of apples will yield 12 to 15 quarts of applesauce.
- It takes about 40 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.