Apples ready earlier than usual
Apple lovers can look for their favorite local apple varieties earlier than usual this fall. Most varieties will ripen one to two weeks ahead of normal and many orchards have early season favorites for sale.
The early start to apple season was caused by unusually warm temperatures in March that also left much of the region's apple crop vulnerable to freezing April temperatures. While many growers are expecting a much smaller crop than normal, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is not aware of any farms closing for the season. In fact, some growers are seeing more apples than they had originally thought survived the frost.
The frost didn't impact all growers equally as there are many variables that can affect the apple crop, according to John Jacobson of Pine Tree Orchards in White Bear Lake.
"The temperature, how long the blossoms were exposed to the temperature, the stage of development that the blossoms were in at the time of the frost and the topography of the orchard all play a role in how the crop emerges," said Jacobson. But he says these factors don't adversely affect the quality of fruit harvested.
"If the apple blossom survived the frost, the quality of the apple isn't affected. The key is that we will have quality local apples this year, just not as many as normal and the season is definitely starting earlier."
Minnesota Grown spokesman Paul Hugunin advises consumers to check with their orchard ahead of time to confirm availability.
"Conditions from farm to farm and variety to variety makes it especially important to call ahead to ensure that your favorite apple varieties will be available when you visit. And with an early start to the season and a smaller harvest than usual it's a good idea to call sooner than later," he said.
Minnesota apple growers are well known for growing flavorful apples like Zestar, SweeTango, Honeycrisp, and Haralson but many orchards also provide family-friendly experiences like hayrides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, fall raspberry picking and photo opportunities. Some orchards even have their own on-farm bakeries or restaurants.
The Minnesota Grown Directory lists more than 100 apple farms. You can search the Directory online at www.minnesotagrown.com or order your free copy by calling 1-888-tourism.