Only fruits that mature late in the fall or that can be purchased in the store during the winter can be considered for home storage. Most fruits that can be stored keep best at 31 F. If you store a large quantity of fruit each year, special storage facilities are needed.
Storing fruits and vegetables together is not recommended. Apples and potatoes, stored together, produce ethylene gas which will make both apples and potatoes rot. Apples, pears, grapes and other fruits also can absorb odors from potatoes and other vegetables.
Pick apples when they are mature but still hard. Red apples should be well colored at harvest. Apples for storage should be free from insect and mechanical injuries. Do not store apples that have glassy spots in the flesh, known as “water core”.
The length of time that apples can be stored depends on variety, maturity, and soundness at harvest, as well as storage temperature. For long-term storage, the temperature should be as close to 32 F as possible.
The rate of ripening or softening of apples at a given temperature after harvest depends on the variety. In general, apples ripen about four times as fast at 50 F as at 32 F. They become overripe rapidly at 70 F or above.
Apples can be stored successfully at home if the weather turns cold soon after harvest. In many areas temperatures remain moderate for a month or more after the normal harvest date of many varieties. Varieties that mature in September — for example, Akane and Prima — cannot be kept long. Golden Delicious, and Chehalis will become overripe in three to four weeks if temperatures are not below 50 F. Late-maturing varieties such as Melrose, Jonagold. Spartan and Karmijn De Sonneville are best for storage in the home. Apples keep best in cellars that can be cooled by frosty night air in fall and can be maintained at a low temperature (about 31 F) until early spring.
Apples can be stored in many ways, but they must be protected from freezing (28 to 30 F) and shriveling. When days and nights are cold, apples can be stored in insulated boxes in outbuildings, in hay in a barn, in straw-lined pits, or in soil and straw covered barrels. These methods of storage, will not protect apples against freezing if outdoor temperatures remain below 10 F. If you store apples in a pit, cover them with straw and paper to keep them dry.
Stored apples need moderate moisture to prevent shriveling. Perforated food-grade polyethylene bags and box liners are useful to prevent shriveling of all varieties of apples, particularly Grimes Golden and Golden Delicious. Do not seal or tie bags or liners and see that they have about ten to twelve 1/4” holes to permit ventilation and to maintain a desirable humidity. Decay is encouraged if the humidity is too high, especially if the temperature is much above 32 F. For best results, each variety should be ripened and eaten at its peak of quality. Do not store apples too long.
Citrus fruits can often be purchased at low prices and may be desirable for storing in the home. Citrus fruits may be stored in a fruit cellar for short periods, if the storage temperature is kept as close to 32 F as possible, but not freezing.
In our area where grapes mature as outside temperatures approach freezing, it is possible to keep grapes for a month or two, if the grapes are fully ripe and free of decay at harvest time. Store grapes in a cold, moderately moist place. Because grapes absorb odors from other vegetables and fruits, they should be stored alone or in a fruit cellar. Among varieties suited for the northwest, Catawbas have the best keeping quality, but other varieties can be kept satisfactorily.
For proper flavor and texture, most pears must be ripened after harvest. Pick pears when they are fully mature, but still hard and green. Pears are ready for picking when they change from deep green to pale green.
Bartlett and Kieffer pears are usually ripened immediately after harvest at 60 to 65 F and are canned or preserved. Kieffer pears require two to three weeks to ripen. Bartletts ripen a little faster.
Store pears with apples or under similar conditions. See that pears are cool and free of defects when you put them in storage. If pears are stored too long or at too high a temperature of if the temperature for ripening is too high (75 For above), they break down without ripening.
For more information contact our Master Gardeners at Washington State University Extension Snohomish County at 425-338-2400 weekdays 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
- EB 1436 Apple Varieties for Puget Sound (color) $8.50
- EB 0637 Training and Trellising Grapes in Washington $1.50
- EB 0937 Tree Fruit Varieties for Western Washington $6.00
Slightly revised 11/07