Well, it’s apple harvest season once again! The whole year I prepare for the Fall Harvest. The Autumn air is crisp and clear, and the fruit is swiftly ripening. Some apples are already dropping from the trees, and that is a sure sign that it’s time to harvest.
I shake the apples off the trees onto tarps with a long, hooked pole instead of hand-picking them. I do this for several reasons.
1. I don’t have enough help to hand-pick apples. It has become more difficult to attract people who want to work outside. I offer a good wage, but even that hasn’t attracted workers. You need a lot of help to hand-pick apples.
2. Shaking apples off a tree only removes the apples that are ripe. The unripe apples remain on the tree. I come back and shake the trees again over a two-week period until all the apples are harvested. This ensures that only perfectly ripe apples are picked.
3. I’m not selling fresh-eating apples. So, it doesn’t matter if the fruit isn’t perfect looking. I convert all my apples into vinegar. Apples that drop from the tree onto a tarp may become bruised just a little bit, but some bruising helps the apple become softer for grinding and pressing into juice.
4. Shaking apples off trees is a method I learned while studying traditional cider and vinegar crafting in England. The English Master Brewers also hit the trees with poles to dislodge fruit, but I feel that’s too violent for the poor tree. I just shake the branches and fruit comes tumbling down. Sometimes I wear a hard-hat to protect my head!
Harvest season is an extraordinary time of year for any farmer, but especially for apple growers. The juicy, ripe fruit is a beautiful reminder of nature’s abundance.