THE FOUR SEASONS
The majority of New England apple orchards are family-run businesses. An apple orchard is a busy place, a highly seasonal enterprise as varied as the days in a year, with each day bringing a new chance to test the orchardist’s skills against the measure of the eventual harvest.
Fertilizing and tree training round out June. Limbs are either tied up or weighted down to spread the young tree into a perfect shape. Pomology, the science and art of growing apples, is a refined practice. Apple producers attend regional meetings to keep abreast of the latest information and technology.
During a dry July, irrigation ensures good fruit size and firmness. Shaping and pruning continues, allowing ripening sunlight into the tree. Red apples need cool nights during harvest to trigger an enzyme that increases color or “blush.”
Growers set out ladders and bulk storage boxes (bins) around the orchard. They plan harvest logistics, clean storage rooms, and test refrigeration systems. Most growers store part of their crop in huge controlled atmosphere (CA) rooms where the temperature is rapidly decreased to 32 degrees, and oxygen is replaced with nitrogen to slow ripening. Apples remain as fresh as the day they were picked. For apples to pass the “admissions test” to a CA room, they must have proper starch and hardness measurements (to determine ripeness).