Autumn has descended on us, and with that, brings pumpkins, leaves, sweaters, and best of all, apples! While not the easiest to grow in our heat and humidity, the Carolinas do produce a significant number of commercial apples. With the season only lasting a few months, I am often asked how to best keep or store apples at home.
There are three keys to apple storage: quality, temperature, and humidity. Apples that are being stored must be of the utmost quality. Choose clean and disease-free apples to start. Avoid any bruising, as it leads to decay and the breakdown of the apple. Disease or bruising breakdown from one apple will begin to affect the apples adjacent to it in storage. Remove any apples with noticeable spots or damage as soon as possible. Quality and humidity go hand-in-hand as apples should be stored in a cool place with high humidity. Apples stored in a refrigerator crisper drawer should be placed in a plastic bag with a few holes to increase humidity. Apples in a basement or cellar area should be allowed to be cool but not subjected to freezing temperatures. Optimum storage is at or just above 32 °F.
The variety of apple does make a difference to storage. Thicker skinned and harder apples tend to keep longer; ‘Arkansas Black’, ‘Stayman Winesap’, ‘Rome’, ‘Fuji’ or ‘Pink Lady’ can last five months or more when conditions are right. Softer skinned varieties like ‘Gala’ and ‘Golden Delicious’ may only last a few weeks even in the best environment. By choosing good quality apples, storing at ideal temperatures, and ensuring proper humidity, some apple varieties can be kept well into the winter.
For more information, see HGIC 4247, Using & Storing Apples.