Storing Apples

Only late varieties of apple are worth storing for any length of time. Early and mid-season apples rapidly lose flavour and texture and some become almost inedible. You need a low, even temperature and a fairly moist atmosphere, but not so moist as to encourage moulds.

A cellar, a frost-proof outhouse in the shade, or boxes in an unheated bedroom facing north are better than attics, lofts and other places which might seem to be OK but where the temperatures fluctuate.

Only perfect fruit should be put into long-term storage. You must keep different varieties apart. This is because ripening apples give off a gas encouraging neighbouring fruit to ripen. If you put an early ripe apple next to a box of unripe Cox's, say, they will ripen prematurely, and they won't taste right.

One good method of storage is to use old tomato trays and to place a sheet of newspaper in each tray; apples are then added, stalk uppermost, and neighbouring fruit must not touch. Some people wrap individual fruit in paper but this can be unhelpful because you can't inspect the fruit's appearance.

The length of time an apple keeps depends on how quickly it has ripened. Slow ripening means that the chemical reactions in the fruit have slowed down, and the apples will keep longer. In a really hot year, for example, Bramleys don't keep much after Christmas, but if it's cooler they are still quite palateable for cooking in April or even May.

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My favourites for late storage are Bramley and King Edward VII. Both of these routinely store until March; there is a period of about a fortnight, often just after Christmas, when they are palateable as dessert apples. Golden Noble is a lovely cooking apple but it won't last longer than late November, and even then it's past its best. Other cookers which keep well are Annie Elizabeth and Lanes Prince Albert.


Good late-keeping apples include Allen's Everlasting, Sturmer Pippin, d'Arcy Spice, May Queen and Cox. In good years these are tasty and fresh until March or later. In bad years they can go "off" in various ways - May Queen sometimes becomes dry and harsh, Allen's Everlasting can taste slightly mouldy; d'Arcy Spice can go mealy. However, it's uncommon for all these defects to be observed in the same year, which is why one should aim to grow more than one type.

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