At this time of year where the nights are crisp and the days warm, many people will ask us about the danger of apples freezing on the trees. We have had a mild fall this year and have not yet had a hard freeze–below 28 degrees or so. We have had some frosty nights and our basil and cucumbers have definitely lost the garden battle, but we’ve yet to have a cold, cold night as we often do in October.
Apples have lots of sugar in them (which is why we like them) and depending on the variety, an apple will withstand differing degrees of cold temperatures. The skin on an apple can freeze and the apple will still be fine to pick. When this happens, we have to let the skin thaw before we pick them, otherwise they’ll be bruised and not so visually appealing. On these mornings, our crew will wait until the temperatures have warmed up and then they will pick. However, if an apple freezes to the core, the apple is toast. The apple cannot be salvaged, even for cider. As Steve says, “…it’s a packet of juice hanging on a stem on the tree”. Think of how a tomato on the vine freezes in your garden–or your neighbor’s garden–it’s only mushy and yucky and really only good for playing garden baseball. The same goes for apples that are frozen to the core.
If the nighttime temperatures hover around 26 degrees, that’s when we get nervous. Steve has run wind machines in the fall to keep the apples from freezing to the core. In years past, even I have been out with a picking sack in the almost-dark trying to get as many apples off the tree as we could before a hard freeze. When I’m out there picking, those are desperate times, indeed.
We have a handful of varieties to pick before we will be finished for the season. Those are: Braeburns, Fuji, Granny Smith and Gold Rush. They are varieties that are hardier than say a Jonathon, but we are still keeping an eye on the temperatures at night, just to make sure we aren’t freezing our final varieties. As I said earlier, we’ve had nice fall weather, without a hard frost yet. Things could change in the next week–it only takes one night. But we are feeling good about getting the last apples picked without having to dodge Mother Nature too much. And then we can call this fresh fruit season a wrap.