October 18, 2006 | By: Terri McLean
LEXINGTON, KY.

Thanks to a frost-free spring, above normal rainfall and cooler temperatures in August and September, Kentucky growers have a bumper crop of high-quality apples this year, said John Strang, horticulture specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

“We’ve got a 100-percent crop or better of a normal apple crop,” Strang said. “With the rainfall we’ve had, they have sized up really well. And with the cool temperatures, this is the best color I’ve seen in a long time.”

There are between 1,000 and 1,500 acres of apples throughout Kentucky, Strang said. The state’s growers are known for producing premium tasting apples because they allow the apples to ripen on the trees and because most do not irrigate their fruit, which can dilute flavor components. 

“I will admit that it is harder to grow the perfect-looking apple in Kentucky,” Strang said. “Our high humidity contributes to fruit russeting (rough skin appearance), and our higher summer and fall temperatures usually reduce red coloration. But on the other hand, what are you after? An apple that looks good in a fruit bowl or one that snaps when you bite into it, explodes with juice, has an outstanding flavor and makes you feel like you can’t wait to take another bite?”

Kentucky’s apple producers grow several varieties, including such consumer favorites as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Rome and Fuji. But they also produce many varieties that consumers won’t typically find in the supermarket. They include Honeycrisp, a new variety that is juicy and crispy, and GoldRush, a tart, firm apple that sweetens up in storage.

“Kentucky apple growers produce varieties that fill the whole spectrum of taste preferences,” Strang said.

A majority of Kentucky’s apple crop is sold at the retail level, such as at farm stands and other farmers’ markets. Unlike in Michigan, New York and Pacific Northwest states, growers here do very little wholesale production. Local Cooperative Extension Service offices will know of local apple growers in their area.

Prices for Kentucky-grown apples by the peck or bushel are “reasonable,” Strang said, especially when compared to prices consumers pay at the supermarket. 

“Most consumers don’t purchase apples by the bushel any more, and they cringe when they see a grower ask $25 a bushel,” he said. “This seems high to most consumers because they purchase apples by the pound. Well, there are 42 pounds in a bushel, and apples at 98 cents per pound in the supermarket are $41 per bushel. At $1.69 per pound they are almost $71 per bushel.”

“If you want some good apples, now’s the time to get some and put them away for the winter,” Strang added.

Contact: 

John Strang, 859-257-5685