Here's my apple store a few weeks after I put them into storage:

enter image description here

As you can see, already quite a high failure rate. And even for the apples which still look sound as of today, are they still at risk? Or if they've got this far without rotting are they basically now set to store OK through the winter?

But my main question is, how do I improve my success rate? I can guess that the key things are:

  • don't store obviously damaged apples
  • cool, even temperature
  • darkness
  • dry, with good air circulation

If my list is correct, which out of those is most important? Is there anything I've left out?

In my case I did pick windfalls rather than harvesting them from the tree (is trying to store windfalls hopeless? They looked unblemished at the time). The temperature may have been a little high. Is that enough to explain the high failure rate?

3 Answers 3

  • Keep them cool and damp. 32F with 90% humidity is ideal. Every bit above 32 and below 90 will take a little bit off the "ideal conditions" storage life.

  • Don't store windfalls. Put them in a bowl on the table and eat them "soon". If you lose everything in the fruit bowl, it's not such a big loss. If you lose everything in your winter store, that's much worse. Better yet, make cider or applesauce with these; can the end product for a very long term storage life. (Or make jam, or freeze them for making midwinter apple pies, give your horses a treat, etc.)

  • Don't store fruit with any sort of damage. (Or, store them separately and eat the damaged fruit first, as well as any that are starting to turn bad. The drawback to this strategy is that you'll end up eating the worst fruit all winter long... sometimes it might be nice to eat good quality fruit!)

  • Check your storage regularly (at least weekly). Remove fruit at the first signs of damage. ("One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch" is real advice!) You shouldn't get anywhere near the point of having black, moldy apples in your storage; cull them earlier.

  • Don't store overripe fruit. I'm not sure about picking prior to full ripeness, but I know that ripe fruit gives off much more ethylene. Ethylene is the enemy of fruit storage.

  • Some varieties store better than others. Keep the storage apples "on the bottom of the barrel". Eat the other varieties first. (Though I don't actually use a barrel; it would be easier to inspect with relatively shallow storage boxes.)

  • "32F with 90% humidity is ideal" For everyone in the world outside the US: This is 0 degrees Celsius. Which surprises me, I would expect that storing them at freezing point is too cold. I'd go for slightly above freezing point, around 4 degrees.
    – Turion
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 12:31

Having been in a commercial apple "cold store", I would think coolness was the most important. The lights were on when I was there, but I assume they went off when the door closed. Can't comment on air circulation, or what kind of humidity control existed (this was in England).

However, I think windfalls are probably a major reason for your problem. Commercially, windfalls are not stored. They are either discarded or used for cider.

  • 1
    I would agree. When I read that he stored windfalls, my first reaction was uh oh!. Fallen fruit almost always has damaged tissue, which might not be apparent at first. The point of contact with the ground will almost always be the first part of the fruit to go bad. Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 1:25
  • thanks winwaed & @yoda ... but what about the ones which have "got this far" without rotting? Are they now going to be OK? Or are they soon going to turn black too? Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 11:56
  • As with ones in a fruit bowl where a single apple has rotted, they might survive some time, but the fungi and micro-organisms are there and in contact, so I would expect them to rot quicker than normal. Speculation: iff it isn't too cool, the rotten ones may also start to attract insects?
    – winwaed
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 13:38

It also depends on what type of apple you are storing. Certain types of apples last much longer than other varieties. Fugi and Granny Smith for example are well know for their long shelf life.

Commercially apples are stored in highly-ventilated, carbon dioxide rich chambers and are waxed to prolong shelf life. Perhaps in addition to the other suggestions about storing in a cool, dark place make sure the area is properly ventilated to prevent ethylene from accumulating, which induces faster ripening.

For windfall apples I would either eat as soon as possible, or convert the apples to other processed goodies such as applesauce, apple butter, apple jam, or dried apples just to name a few!

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