It’s early September. The apple season has started. But how do you know where and when to pick? And what do you do with all those apples once you’ve picked them? Kevin Garrod from Monnow Valley Cider shares some tips to get us started.

Why pick apples rather than buy them?

It’s going to be fresher. If you buy from a supermarket, the fruit is going to be at least a week old before it even gets to the supermarket shelf. Also, if you’re picking from a garden or orchard where you’re familiar with how it’s being managed, then you have more control. You can choose to avoid pesticides and herbicides (for instance).

Where is it ok to pick apples from?

If you don’t have a garden or a garden with fruit trees in it, then you could find out if there’s a nearby community orchard or a community group, or a neighbour with excess fruit.

In Monmouthshire there are community orchards and publicly accessible fruit trees in Abergavenny, Chepstow, Usk, Govilon, Goytre, Caldicot. To name a few!

When is an apple ready to pick?

The best thing to do is to research the different varieties. There are a few varieties available in late July, otherwise you’re looking at August through to November, with again a few varieties available in early December. The most abundant period is October to early November.

You can test if an apple is ready by seeing if it comes off easily in your hand (check first that the tree has enough apples to spare), and if you press your thumb into the apple and it crunches and exudes some juice then it’s ripe or very close to ripe. A further test is to cut the apple in half to see how the pips are. If they’re brown to dark-brown then they’re ready. You don’t want them to be white.

What can you do with apples once you’ve picked them?

You can eat them just as they are. You can make them into puree, have them with porridge or something like that. You can make a crumble. You don’t have to only use cooking varieties for these dishes. You can make apple rings, which keep for years in an airtight container and can be rehydrated at any point for cooking. You can even freeze them if you cut them into slices or rings. You can, of course, also juice them for apple juice!

What are other ways you can store apples?

You can store them in trays, wrapped in newspaper individually so they’re not touching each other. Keep them cold and in the dark. That generally works better for later varieties (October onwards). The earlier varieties don’t tend to keep as long. A Discovery, for example, will go off within a week. Whereas later varieties like an Adams Pearmain last longer, even in your fruit bowl. So check them regularly.

Kevin recommends www.fruitID.com as a tool to help with apple identification. Happy picking and thanks, Kevin, for all the useful advice.