Food and Nutrition

Experts Say This Is the Best Way To Store Apples

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma
Your ears have not failed you. You did indeed hear the seemingly imperceptible sound of the first leaf falling and the modification of the Starbucks menu to include the pumpkin spice latte that undoubtedly signals the start of fall. And as sad as we may be to bid adieu to summer, fall brings with it a new way to get outside: apple picking.

If you (like so many of us) are unable to stop at just one bag of apples and end up lugging home a near-bushel's worth of fresh fruit from the orchard, you’re going to need to figure out how to store apples so they stay crisp and juicy for as long as possible. After all, there’s nothing worse than discovering that your fruit has become mealy, moldy, or otherwise lost its luster.

The good news is that apples do have the unique ability to stay fresh for many months—that is, so long as you know how to store them properly. Here, top apple experts offer you some guidance and ensure that your hard-earned haul is not in vain.

How to store apples so they stay fresh for as long as possible

1. Pick your fruit carefully

Whether at an orchard or at the grocery store, you’ll find that some apples seem a little worse for wear than others. “Factors like pressure, starch, and sugar levels affect the storage capabilities of an apple,” explains Chuck Zeutenhorst, president of First Fruits Farms. “If you pick up an apple at the store that feels softer, it probably will not store well.” As such, be careful to pick apples that feel firm to the touch and don’t have any brown spots or signs of bruising before you even get them home.

There are also some kinds of apples that tend to keep a bit longer. Opal apples, for example, are naturally non-browning; harder apples like fuji, red delicious, and granny smith can also stay crisp for months on end.

2. Utilize your refrigerator

While apples may thrive in the great outdoors while they’re still on their trees, once you’ve picked them (or brought them from the store), they’ll stay fresh for longest if you keep them in your refrigerator.

“We always recommend that apples be kept in the refrigerator for optimal freshness and shelf life, regardless of the variety or where the apple was purchased,” says Lindsey Huber of the Washington Apple Commission.

While apples may thrive in the great outdoors while they’re still on their trees, once you’ve picked them (or brought them from the store), they’ll stay fresh for the longest if you keep them in your refrigerator.

But even then, not all parts of your refrigerator are created equal. “It is so important to get to know your refrigerator’s zones," Lisa McManus, executive editor at America’s Test Kitchen, tells Well+Good. "The cold zone in the back of your fridge is normally the coldest area, which makes it best for storing fruits like apples that are not prone to chilling injury." It’s also the best place to store fruits like cherries and grapes, as well as meat and dairy products, she says.

If you’re looking to get super specific, Zeutenhorst recommends keeping apples between 31°F and 35°F.

3. Keep them separated

The old adage that a bad apple spoils the bunch actually rings true. “Keep apples separate from one another and consider wrapping them individually in towels,” says Berkshire Farm Table co-author Elisa Spungen Bildner. This helps prevent ethylene gas, which many ripe fruits emit, from causing nearby pieces of produce to prematurely ripen (or worse, rot). “Also, pull out any that are rotting or not good as soon as you spot them” she adds. “This way, you can actually keep apples for months on end.”

4. Consider enlisting your freezer

While you may immediately think of freezing your apples, experts say that depending on the technique you use, the results may not be as off-putting as you think.

“You can certainly freeze apples to use later for cooking or processing,” says Huber. Rather than freezing apples whole, McManus suggests peeling and coring your apples, then tossing them with lemon juice to prevent browning. Next, freeze them on a baking sheet before transferring them into a freezer-safe bag—this helps ensure that they don't form one giant frozen apple chunk. “Also, keep in mind that apple slices are best for baking or smoothies after they've been frozen, rather than eating as is, because the freezing can break them down and make them a bit soft,” she explains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have unanswered questions about apples swirling around your mind? NYC-based dietitian Jennifer Maeng, MS, RD, CDN, of Chelsea Nutrition has the answers. Check them out, below.

Q: What time of year do apples stay freshest the longest?

A: “Depending on the variety, apples are in peak season from late summer to early winter,” Maeng says. “The best time to enjoy apples is early fall to winter. Later the season, the longer the storage capacity!”

Q: Is it worthwhile to slice apples during meal prep?

A: “Keep your apples whole until you are ready to eat them,” Maeng says. “Once you slice the apples, the flesh will start to interact with the air and oxidize, impacting its nutritional value.”

Q: Are there any ways to extend the life of sliced apples?

A: “Citrus juice can help slow the process of browning from oxidation if you are preparing the apples earlier due to time constraints—or if you didn’t eat as many as you initially expected to.”

Q: Are there any recipes to put older apples to good use?

A: “I love to make apple tarte tatin when apples are in season, especially after a visit to an apple farm,” Maeng says, noting that ultra-ripe apples work well with the recipe. “It’s super simple to make and delicious.”

So if you have plans for apple pie, apple sauce, and apple chutneys for many months in the future, go ahead and pick that full bushel. With these storage tips and answers to the most frequently asked apple questions, you’ll be able to make use of your haul long after you lug those apples home.

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