In our modern day supermarket, an apple is something that never disappears. No matter what time of year it is there will be apples. But does that mean there is still a season for apples? I think so. Not all apples will appear in the store at all times. You typically will find well know varieties like Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Gala in the stores all year round. But some varieties only appear for a short time and some only at a local orchard or farmer’s market.
For me I like to only but apples when they are at their peak. That would be from about August until the start of spring. Below you will find my guide for shopping for apples at their peak. I strictly buy local grown Michigan apples all the way until the winter. Then the majority of the winter apples I buy were grown in the state of Washington.
This marks the beginning of the season. These early apples tend not to keep very long. Some I think if you looked at them wrong, would turn to crack or rot right before your eyes. The early apples are dominated by tart ones, such as Transparent and Vista Bella. These tart apples are good for making applesauce, which is what I tend to do more of at the beginning of the season. The best baking apples are yet to come.
Now this is when things really begin to pick up. A good majority of the apples ripen in September. This month features some of the best and most popular. Honeycrisp and it’s offspring SweeTango hit store shelves right around Labor Day. This is also when you need to get your McIntosh apples. The peak of their season is right at the start of September, that is when they are more tart and crisp. Another popular apple, the sweet Gala are also at peak this time of year (learn more about Gala apple season)
I still like to make sauce in September (McIntosh are a great sauce apple). But if you are in the mood for baking, Cortland, Empire, and Rhode Island Greening apples are at their peak. And don’t forget about the Jonathans, they too are a September ripener. Still the best pie apples are yet to come.
Now this is when you want to get your baking apples. Ida Red, Granny Smith, and Northern Spy apples all ripen by mid to late October. These are the best of the best for baking a pie or making an apple crisp.
Fans of the sweet Gala apples should be changing over to buying Fuji and Cameo which are both sweet apples but are going to be more crisp this time of year than the Galas.
The last 2 months on the calendar are pretty slow going for apples. All the apples with good shelf lives will be available, but you don’t see many new varieities hit the market place. One exception, I found last year was the Opal apple, which is a crisp, sweet, yellow apple.
Now you might think winter would not be a time when a lot of varieties hit the market place, but that isn’t the case. There are a lot of apples making their debut in the winter months. Most of these were harvested in October and placed into cold storage for either two reasons: 1) Because they will taste better as they age, without becoming too soft 2) To fill the void once the other popular apples are well past their prime
Some of the winter varieties include the Pinata, which is crisp apple with a great flavor that contains a hint of something tropical. It is grown in Washington, by Stemilt Growers. You also have the Lady Alice, Junami and Jazz apples.
Spring is the End
When the spring time comes, there isn’t much of in the way of apples. From this point until July is the time of year you will less likely to find apples in the house. I might grab something from the store to make applesauce with early summer berries, but besides that it’s back to waiting until the first new apple hits the farmer’s market.