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Your Apples Are A Year Old

your apples are a year old

The produce you buy in the supermarket or grocery store is not fresh. With many items, like spinach, the leaves may have been plucked no more than a few weeks ago. But with many others, like apples, the fruit probably sat in cold storage for a year before making its way to the supermarket.

I thought this was common knowledge.

But in a recent Facebook discussion in which many readers chimed in with incredulous statements like, “A year old? No way!” I realized I was wrong. This information is not common knowledge.

But it should be.

Here in the U.S. apples generally ripen between August and September. They pick the apples when they’re slightly unripe, treat them with a chemical called 1-methylcyclopropene, wax them, box them, stack them on pallets, and keep them in cold storage warehouses for an average of 9-12 months.

I guess we should be grateful. It used to be that rather than being sprayed with 1-methylcyclopropene (also known as 1-MCP), cold storage apples were sprayed with fungicide.

From the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, we learn this:

Apples not intended for fresh market are stored at low temperatures, with low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide. While this slows the apples’ natural production of ethylene and its effects, fungicides must often be applied to prevent fungal rots from taking hold. But since its commercial debut in 2002 under the name “SmartFresh,” 1-MCP has in some cases diminished the need for such treatment.
(source)

In fact, the development and use of 1-MCP has made it common for apples to sit even longer in cold storage. That’s because, according the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service,

On average, treated apples stayed firm for 3 to 6 months longer than untreated controls when placed in controlled-atmosphere storage conditions. Red Delicious apples, for example, stayed crunchier 2 to 3 weeks longer than untreated controls after removal from storage.
(source)

Just how long are apples stored before being sold?

After learning that apples that have sat in cold storage for 12 months are commonly called “birthday apples” within the industry, one Australian investigative news organization decided to do a test to see just how old the apples on their grocery store shelves really were. They collected samples from major Australian supermarkets and sent them to the Sydney Postharvest Laboratory for testing.

The results?

Analysis showed the Woolworths samples were about 10 months old while the Norton Street and Coles products had spent 9 months in storage since being harvested.
(source)

But what about in the U.S.?

brandwashedAccording to Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, the average supermarket apple is 14 months old.

This is unsurprising to me, but may be shocking to you.

That’s because my husband used to manage a cold-storage warehouse for Harry & David when we lived in Oregon. He saw first hand how their “fresh fruit” was handled — from harvest in the nearby valleys to specialized climate control storage.

What he saw inspired me to never want to eat a grocery store fruit again, long before I ever became the “Real Foodie” that I am today. I wish I could go into details, but honestly? I don’t want to be sued!

Should you care about the age of your produce?

If you want to eat apples all year long, regardless of the season, maybe you’re glad to hear that modern engineering and science have mastered the art of keeping apples “fresh” for a year or more.

Yet at what cost?

The obvious differences in flavor and texture between fresh apples and stored apples aside, what’s so bad about eating produce that’s this old?

Nutrients.

Aside from dietary fiber and sugar, apples are a rich source of polyphenols — antioxidants that can help fight cancer and improve post-workout recovery by reducing muscle fatigue.

Yet according to this study, antioxidant activity in apples gradually drops off after three months of storage in the cold. An apple stored for nearly a year? It will have almost no antioxidants remaining in it whatsoever.

This is also true of most vegetables and fruits: the less fresh they are, the less nutrients they have.

So, how do you get the most nutrients from your apples?

Buy fresh. Don’t assume you’ll get apples year round. Buy in season. Buy from a local farmer when possible. Once you buy your apples, store them on your counter top rather than the fridge.
Quickly eat or remove bruised apples as the old saying is most certainly true, “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”

Don’t assume that buying organic apples will automatically mean you’re buying fresh apples either. Although SmartFresh (1-MCP) is not currently approved for use on organic apples, organic growers still use approved non-synthetic fungicides and controlled atmosphere cold storage to achieve a similar effect.

(photo by msr)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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133 Responses to Your Apples Are A Year Old
  1. Andrea
    April 8, 2013 | 12:34 pm

    No, this isn’t common knowledge, but it should be! Thanks!

    • Betsy
      January 9, 2014 | 2:23 pm

      I grew up on a small farm so I knew about cold storage. But when buying fresh produce in a typical store, the fruits and vegetables will have sticky tags on them that includes a 4 or 5 digit number. Does anyone know what the number means? I contacted both the USDA and my state Dept. of Ag. but no one could answer me. I have also spoken to the produce guy and the store manager in my local store. They couldn’t answer my question either! I want to know what I am eating!!! Thanks for your input.

      • Kele
        January 19, 2014 | 2:55 pm

        I’m really surprised that no one could answer that for you from all of those sources.

        Those stickers contain a number called the Price Look-Up Code (PLU) the identifies the produce item for inventory purposes. The universal identifier lets stores ring up and track produce items without having to visually identify varieties by sight (i.e. a cashier having to know the difference between 10 kinds of apples, etc.). These numbers are 4 digits long and start with a 3 or a 4. For example, bananas are 4011.

        5 digit codes are the same 4 digit code, but with a leading digit. There are two options for this leading digit: 8, indicating genetically modified produce, and 9, indicating organic produce. So organic bananas are 94011. I’ve never seen an 8—- code before, probably because labeling of genetically modified produce isn’t required in the US.

        Hope that helps!

  2. Mandy
    April 8, 2013 | 12:38 pm

    Even organic??

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 12:44 pm

      Yes. SmartFresh (1-MCP) is not currently approved for use on organic apples, but organic growers still use approved non-synthetic fungicides and controlled atmosphere cold storage to achieve a similar effect.

      • Kate
        April 9, 2013 | 1:42 pm

        ohhhhhh man!!! I thought that once you saw organic, you were set! Now I have to worry about this? What else should we know? How are we supposed to learn what we don’t know about? This is ridiculous!

        • Ian Kiddle
          October 1, 2014 | 1:01 am

          It is almost impossible to grow apples and pears without the use of fungicides as black spot and other fungi make the apple unsaleable to the public who want perfection. Organic fungicides are pretty much sulphur or copper in limited amounts. In a wet season it is very difficult to grow fungi free apples with these relatively ineffective fungicides. Organics allows their use because they are “natural products” and have a long history of being safe. I think the health benefits of eating apples outweigh any risk from these products.

      • julia
        April 28, 2013 | 12:37 pm

        So much for organic, huh!I always thought it’s just another business strategy.

  3. Christine
    April 8, 2013 | 12:58 pm

    I can’t imagine eating “birthday apples.” Yuck!
    I grew up on an apple farm so I have always been too picky to eat grocery store apples, and never gave them too much thought—except to scowl at the Washington apples displayed in a New York grocery store in September!

  4. dana popham
    April 8, 2013 | 1:28 pm

    i didn’t realize it was a year… wow. truly thankful for local growers, local orchards, my towergarden, and juice plus. (vine ripened fruits and vegetables encapsulated) http://www.dpsharesjuiceplus.com

  5. Kali
    April 8, 2013 | 1:30 pm

    It doesn’t surprise me at all. I am surprised it shocks people, though. Just like not blinking at what it takes to make money on a 2 dollar hamburger, no one considers what must be done to have a bountiful apple display in the Spring.
    Where do they think the fruit comes from?

    • HarrietM
      April 27, 2013 | 7:24 pm

      I thought they came from greenhouses. I figured they had really big greenhouses and pruned back fruit trees so they could sell the fruit fresh year round.

      And, yes, I do realize that I am randomly stupid. I console myself with the fact that I am also randomly clever. I let myself hope that it balances out.

      In the meanwhile, I will be spreading the word about this.

  6. This Woman Writes -- Carolyn Henderson
    April 8, 2013 | 1:51 pm

    I live in apple country, and every September in the local areas, we see real, this year’s picked apples. For this reason, when I see apples in March, I think, “From cold storage. Apples don’t grow in March.” It helps to know what grows when!

    This last year, our Son and Heir has been bicycling through the countryside, finding abandoned trees from old homesteads and bringing back the fruit — some of the best, very best apples I have ever tasted, and they were definitely fresh!

    • andy
      April 13, 2013 | 1:47 am

      Our son….and heir??? are you the queen of blogtown?

      • JT
        April 30, 2013 | 2:42 pm

        I noticed that phrase too and it made me chuckle. I assumed it was just a funny Downton Abbey reference :)

  7. Becky
    April 8, 2013 | 1:52 pm

    Is this the same with Organic Apples?

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 1:53 pm

      YES! As I wrote in the post above, “Don’t assume that buying organic apples will automatically mean you’re buying fresh apples either. Although SmartFresh (1-MCP) is not currently approved for use on organic apples, organic growers still use approved non-synthetic fungicides and controlled atmosphere cold storage to achieve a similar effect.”

      • Becky
        April 8, 2013 | 2:07 pm

        Thanks Kristen. At the time I posted my comment yours wasn’t showing :)

  8. Tasha
    April 8, 2013 | 2:04 pm

    Couldn’t warmer climates grow apples at different times of the year? The organic apples I’ve been buying are very small, I just assumed it was due to the temperatures wherever they are from.

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 2:08 pm

      Yes, they can. I’m a case in point. I live in Texas, and we can harvest ripe apples from July through November!

  9. Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots
    April 8, 2013 | 2:17 pm

    I seriously don’t know how I missed it, but I didn’t know this either. Gross!

  10. Stephanie
    April 8, 2013 | 2:34 pm

    I really had no idea that apples could be that old. Wow! Living in Florida, there aren’t many places to get fresh apples but I will certainly start looking!

  11. Samantha
    April 8, 2013 | 3:26 pm

    interesting post!!

  12. Jenna
    April 8, 2013 | 5:19 pm

    People have been storing apples like this and in cellars for yearssssssss. This is seriously the LEAST of our food issues.

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 5:24 pm

      While cold storage & (more recently) wax coatings have been historically used, they never preserved the apple for more than an average of 4 months.

      What’s happening now is radically different. To keep apples “fresh” for an average of 12 months, they are spraying them with 1-MCP and antibiotic fungicides before waxing. And the new cold storage is controlled atmosphere storage where they manipulate the levels of CO2 and O2 in the air to help stall the apples’ production of ethylene. (I’m not saying the controlled-atmosphere storage is inherently BAD, just that it is most certainly NEW and NOT how we’ve traditionally stored apples.)

      • Sarah @ Fit Family Together
        April 9, 2013 | 6:16 am

        I had the same reaction – I don’t like the 1-MCP use, but I’ve been wondering if there are nutritional advantages to eating food that’s been stored for a while. We use a root cellar and when we have a good harvest of Empires or Spencers (good keepers), we can keep them as you mentioned at least 4 months. Same with potatoes, cabbage, etc. I know our winter squash increases in nutritional value in storage. To sum it up, we’re so fixated on “fresh” when that’s hard to eat seasonally – are there advantages to eating root cellared fruits? Our stored apples may not be as high in antioxidants but their texture has changed – has the starch/sugars changed? And the old (tart) storage varieties start out with more antioxidants as well. Thank you for the info.

        • Cady
          April 9, 2013 | 8:02 am

          The squash increases its nutritional value in storage?

        • KristenM
          April 9, 2013 | 8:15 am

          It’s my understanding that the longer they store, the sweeter they get. This eventually hits a wall somewhere around 4-6 months, at which point they just start losing texture and flavor.

          And yes, the more tart varieties have more antioxidants to start with.

      • Ole Laursen
        July 14, 2013 | 4:04 pm

        “And the new cold storage is controlled atmosphere storage where they manipulate the levels of CO2 and O2 in the air to help stall the apples’ production of ethylene. (I’m not saying the controlled-atmosphere storage is inherently BAD, just that it is most certainly NEW and NOT how we’ve traditionally stored apples.)”

        Sorry, but this is incorrect. I own a manual for commercial fruit production published in 1948 that describes how to setup a CO2 storage. In it’s basic form it’s not really that complicated – you block off the storage room for a while so the apples use up the available oxygen. Then they slow down their rate of respiration so it takes longer before they die.

        Also keep in mind that cold storage costs money, even more so with a controlled atmosphere. Hence, apples stored for more than a year will be more expensive than the freshly picked fruit.

        With that in mind, that 14 month average figure you quote sounds very suspicious.

        Regarding the Australian article you quote, you are reporting it as if apples are always 9-10 months old when sold but that’s just bonkers. The age obviously depends on how long has passed since the particular sort of apple was in season.

        Of course, it’s better to eat freshly picked apples. But CO2 and cold storage allows us to eat much fresher apples off-season, and reduced antioxidants levels or not, as long as the apple is edible I think you’re better off eating it than not. :)

        A much better reason for not eating typical supermarket apples it that they’re grown for looks, not for taste, so many of them are picked too early or are of sorts that have poor quality or are grown in a too warm climate that doesn’t develop the flavours properly. Local growers close quickly if their apples taste of nothing – but supermarkets seem happy to continue selling the same crap. Meh.

        • Leslee
          October 6, 2014 | 2:06 am

          Ole Laursen, in Australia, apples are kept for 9-12 mths before appearing on the shelves of supermarkets. I’ve known this fact for 20 years when I had a catering business. Supermarket fruit is ‘old dead’ food. Eat it at your own risk.

      • Vin Cox
        July 22, 2014 | 8:57 am

        In mild British winters, apples sometimes hang naturally on the tree until spring – I’ve eaten one in mid March.
        The scandal here is the chemicals, not the keeping. Lasting well is just a great natural feature of the apple. Old apples are better than any other out-of-season solution (or no fruit).

  13. Joe Bacon
    April 8, 2013 | 7:22 pm

    What about apples from South America or other countries? Don’t some markets get produce from other countries to avoid the cost of cold storage? Maybe these apples aren’t sitting around as long.

  14. Andy
    April 8, 2013 | 8:11 pm

    Is this for organic apples too?

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 8:37 pm

      Yes! As I wrote in the post itself, “Don’t assume that buying organic apples will automatically mean you’re buying fresh apples either. Although SmartFresh (1-MCP) is not currently approved for use on organic apples, organic growers still use approved non-synthetic fungicides and controlled atmosphere cold storage to achieve a similar effect.”

  15. Susan V
    April 8, 2013 | 8:45 pm

    Is this for organic apples, too? Just kidding, just kidding!!!

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 9:09 pm
    • Sharon
      April 10, 2013 | 3:51 pm

      Your so funny Susan, this is disturbing news to read but you post made me LOL… and Thank you Kristen for all you do.

  16. carolyn
    April 8, 2013 | 9:06 pm

    on a related topic, my farmer told me that supermarket eggs are at least 3 months old by the time they are put out as “fresh” on the shelves

    • Jeannette Olton
      April 9, 2013 | 6:11 am

      I can confirm that supermarket eggs are definitely not “fresh” by the time they get to the grocery store. I grew up on a factory egg farm many years ago (before any of us began questioning those methods). Our eggs were a week old before the processing plant ever picked them up. One can only guess how long they were at the plant and then in cold storage.
      I now have a small organic farm and free-range chickens, trying to atone for the past.

    • Jennifer
      April 10, 2013 | 1:59 pm

      This is why store bought eggs peel so easily after being boiled. They’re ancient and the air bubble inside has become enormous in comparison, therefore allowing the shell to come off cleaner. My farm fresh eggs are a pain to peel and I’ve tried the vinegar in the water and the baking soda in the water. Nothing seems to work but at least my eggs are fresh compared to the store eggs. Yuck to store eggs!

      • Diane
        April 10, 2013 | 10:36 pm

        Have you tried poking a hole in the shell with a pin before boiling it? I saw the idea on Pinterest. Haven’t tried it myself though.

      • Kelly
        April 12, 2013 | 7:54 pm

        I was having the same problem with my fresh eggs, but learned that if you boil the water first, then add the eggs, they peel easily. I use a paste scooper to gently place the eggs into the boiling water w/o dropping them or burning my hand.

  17. Natausha
    April 8, 2013 | 9:28 pm

    :'( That means NO apples for our family … we live in Hawaii! No fresh apples here :(

    • KristenM
      April 8, 2013 | 9:34 pm

      Hm. Are you sure? I did a Google search and found a few farms listed that grow apples.

    • Jessi
      April 8, 2013 | 9:47 pm

      Same for us! We live in Vegas. We have very little fresh anything. Except for one orchard on the far end of town and anything we grow ourselves :/

    • tammie
      April 8, 2013 | 10:33 pm

      None for us either, we live in Alaska. While a few people have tried growing apples, very very few succeed and they tend to keep anything they’re able to grow for their own families. Although the same can be said for most fruits/vegetables here. :(

      • JulieK
        April 8, 2013 | 11:10 pm

        what about getting freeze dried apples from an organic source? Those are usually created fresh – so at least you’d avoid the chemicals?? Not the same I know…

  18. Julia
    April 9, 2013 | 2:56 am

    Interesting – I work for an apple orchard in New Zealand. We are currently midway through harvest with most of our crop contracts bound for Asia and the US this season. Our apples are not waxed or treated with fungicides etc before being sent to CA which holds them in a near suspended state at which they were harvested.

    • Jake
      September 3, 2013 | 2:01 am

      Julia – by chance do you work for an orchard that produces what are called “Envy” apples? I purchased some recently that were shown to come from New Zealand. I’m just curious. They were very sweet and tasty. I did, however, notice they had been waxed. Thanks.

  19. Ber
    April 9, 2013 | 6:08 am

    We purchase organics in bulk and the season is up for them as well. Now as for non-synthetic fungicides of that I am guilty as I dip my berries in vinegar before storing to kill the fungus spores and then toss my cut apples in lemon juice to ward off browning. So in some ways these are not so odd. Cold storage has been used for a very long time in the form of root cellars, although not co2 controlled. This is what is going on with the yellow veggie bags though so if you don’t want the ethylene gas reduced don’t use those either.

  20. Adrian
    April 9, 2013 | 6:46 am

    Thanks for the information. I’m interested to know more about which scientific studies have shown polyphenols from apples “can help fight cancer and improve post-workout recovery by reducing muscle fatigue” as I’ve been unable to find any scholarly texts on the subject.
    There is a lot of contradictory information about the effectiveness of antioxidants on the internet but little or none of it has the weight of science demonstrably backing it up.

  21. Cady
    April 9, 2013 | 7:55 am

    Why store them on the counter? Does it preserve nutrients, as with other red things (tomatoes, watermelon)?

    We buy them when our local farmer sells them at the neighborhood market, which does mean we get cold storage apples for about three months or so (he just stopped selling in March). I’m okay with that. I learned to can this summer, so the plan from now on is to make tons and tons of applesauce this fall (I only canned three large jars and those didn’t last long with a 3-year-old around) and maybe even to dehydrate some into “apple chips.”

  22. Janira
    April 9, 2013 | 8:05 am

    Hi. I’m very new to this eating lifestyle! :-). Changed after grandson was diagnosed with leaky gut. So to help his mommy, we are changing our eating habits to make it easy when they come visit. Plus, getting the benefits ourselves.
    I live in Southern California & this weekend in my CSA box, I got apples. It’s April, should I question the Farm?

    • Fran
      April 9, 2013 | 8:42 am

      Janira: Check out websites for lactofermented foods if you haven’t already. So much fantastic information out there for gut problems.

    • Carrie
      April 9, 2013 | 8:52 am

      Janira, I think I’m in love with you! Both my sons have major food allergies and our lives are spent around the focus of what they can and can’t eat! My oldest also has fructose malabsorption, and my in-laws once told me “there’s not that much HFCS in soda!” To hear of grandparents learning, helping, accommodating and RESPECTING the food dangers of their grandchildren is just flat out moving to me. On behalf of your family, THANK YOU!

      And I know this is a bit off topic: sorry! I just had to give kudos where I saw necessary. :-)

      • Janira
        April 9, 2013 | 11:05 am

        Carrie ~ Thank you! But since I probably screwed up my 3 grown kids by what I fed them – I have to fix it! :) Need to help take care of my precious grandkids. Family and Friends need to help and encourage parents that want the best for their kids. This new lifestyle is a challenge and it takes a lot of time and dedication. We do it with LOVE!!

  23. Fran
    April 9, 2013 | 8:40 am

    So is there any nutritional value at all in these year-old apples? Do you know of a website or (gasp) an actual old fashioned book that can give us condensed information about nutrition in “fresh” vegetables that are picked and stored for long periods of time. I know when I pick up a package of grapes from Chile or carrots from California (I live in midwest) there probably aren’t many vitamins left.

    • KristenM
      April 9, 2013 | 8:51 am

      There’s still dietary fiber, pectin, and sugar. It’s the vitamins (like C) and the polyphenols that drop down to almost nothing.

  24. KristiW
    April 9, 2013 | 9:36 am

    Also new to this site and lifestyle. We recently moved and acquired some lovely apple trees on our property. I’m curious if cooking and canning apples would preserve more nutrients?

    • allison
      April 9, 2013 | 11:18 am

      Many nutrients are in the skin. Typically when we cook and can we remove the skin. What’s left is fiber, pectin, sugar, and vitamin C. The sugars are really brought out when cooked. Apple sauce is not very nutritious, but an excellent substitute for other sweeteners.

  25. Dr. Meghan
    April 9, 2013 | 10:44 am

    Wow, this is new information to me. Thanks for sharing. I need to stock up when they are fresh in Minnesota!

  26. allison
    April 9, 2013 | 11:20 am

    We do not buy apples in the supermarket. Most of ours come from California and when they aren’t growing we don’t get them. But of course they are put in storage since they ripen all at once on a tree. Different varieties at different times, but we have two apple trees and all are ripe at once. They are still small and give us only about 10 apples each- well the ones the birds don’t get.

  27. Peggy
    April 9, 2013 | 11:43 am

    I truly did not know this about apples –the last one I bought had so much wax on it, that plus this information ensures I’m not buying any more fruit at the grocery storet! Thank you so much.

  28. Krisha
    April 9, 2013 | 12:07 pm

    If I can applesauce to try to preserve the fall apple harvest from some locally grown apples, does the heat remove the nutrients as well? Does anyone know?

    • Krisha
      April 9, 2013 | 12:09 pm

      Or even freezing the apples?

  29. Me
    April 9, 2013 | 12:20 pm

    The problem with the stuff going around on FB is that it was stating the wax on the apples is what was keeping them good for a year…… which is not true

  30. Joni
    April 9, 2013 | 3:43 pm

    Mike Adams says organic apples are sprayed with 2 antibiotics approved by the FDA and are not labeled.

    The ones sent to Europe do not get sprayed because Europe will not accept them.

    How do you like that?

  31. Lynne Fenbert Neumann
    April 9, 2013 | 5:37 pm

    As an apple tree owner, I often keep my apples in storage until the next years harvest. As long as they are stored properly they are good. I admit that towards the start of the next harvest they do change texture a bit, but there isn’t a thing wrong with the apples.

    • ludweed
      March 20, 2014 | 6:08 pm

      “they are good” they are not. they are old and not “fresh produce”. if you want us to believe one year old apples are fine and or equivalent to actual fresh produce you need a legitimate nutritional analysis. you profit from selling old fruit why should you be trusted?

  32. IC
    April 9, 2013 | 9:24 pm

    I buy apples by the lug and store them in the garage. I buy from the beginning of apple season (August) through January but no later. You want to ask for “new crop.” Many stores will label the new crop apples. If they have no idea, assume old.

    You can ask your farmer about antibiotic use. From what I understand, it is more commonly used for pears, not used routinely and sprayed long before the fruit forms. (Not that I like the idea but it’s nice to know the details.)

  33. cheryl goncalves
    April 10, 2013 | 11:48 am

    I worked in a packing house for apples, pears and cherries and I can tell you this is true for both apples and pears. I too thought that “fresh” fruit in the stores was just that, but was certainly surprised when I went to work there. If you insist on buying your fruit from the store, wash it at least, but better yet peel it. You would not believe just how many or how bad the chemicals are on the fruit. Even wearing gloves, I and many others, got what we in the industry called “fruit poisoning” on our hands. It looks like a very bad case of poison oak and is caused by the chemicals causing an allergic reaction with your skin! The skin blisters, oozes and peels off! My youngest son got it on his lips eating an unpeeled pear.
    Another thing that shocked me is that while some of the chemicals were considered “safe” in so many parts per million, I NEVER saw them measure the chemicals. Also, when I was having my hands treated by the doctor I asked the guy on the “dump” (the machine where the fruit floats in the water) if he measured and he said no. He was told to put it in till the fruit floats. There’s a problem with it floating because they do not change the dumps water daily like they are suppose to.
    Believe me, the fresh fruit industry is as big a nightmare as the meat and poultry is.

    • KristenM
      April 10, 2013 | 11:54 am

      I *almost* wrote a blog post entirely about my husband’s work with Harry & David, but as I wrote above, I don’t want to be sued.

      You’re right. The “fresh” fruit industry is downright scary.

  34. vortex forest
    April 10, 2013 | 6:56 pm

    You guys, it’s not that big of a deal. In our grandparents’ day, everyone had a root cellar where they kept produce fresh for up to two years. If you want american grown apples when it’s not autumn, this is the only way to get them to you.

    I’ve kept home grown potatoes and squash in drawers lined with newspaper for over a year. Apples don’t go bad if they’re kept cold. It’s a practice that’s been going on since the beginning of time.

    • KristenM
      April 14, 2013 | 12:15 pm

      While cold storage & (more recently) wax coatings have been historically used, they never preserved the apple (in its original crisp & juicy state) for more than an average of 4 months. Yes you could “keep” apples for longer, but you had to be very selective — regularly removing apples that were infected with fungus, worms, or had bruising. You also *knew* that by keeping them for longer, you were sacrificing flavor & texture.

      What’s happening now is radically different. To keep apples “fresh” for an average of 12 months, they are spraying them with 1-MCP and antibiotic fungicides before waxing. And the new cold storage is controlled atmosphere storage where they manipulate the levels of CO2 and O2 in the air to help stall the apples’ production of ethylene. (I’m not saying the controlled-atmosphere storage is inherently BAD, just that it is most certainly NEW and NOT how we’ve traditionally stored apples.)

  35. Diane
    April 10, 2013 | 10:42 pm

    I’ve known this (being from Washington state), but I have to say that I still eat apples year round, and this doesn’t stop me. When it is apple season I buy local, but sometimes a girl just wants apple pie in june!

  36. Monica
    April 12, 2013 | 11:25 am

    I was wondering does this just go for apples or all fruits/veggies that are not in season?

  37. Mape
    April 13, 2013 | 2:10 pm

    I am a retired, small hobby farm grower of apples in West Bloomfield, Michigan. I grow mostly Ida Red apples, but also a few Granny Smith apples. The Ida Red apple is an excellent keeper, and we can keep apples for home use well into March or April of the following year that they are harvested.
    To accomplish this I line a clean garbage pail with a garbage bag liner, place a 5 gallon bucket full of water in the garbage pail and then set a half bushel of apples on top of the 5 gallon pail. Put the cover on the garbage can and place it in a cold area where it will not freeze and the apples will keep nicely until the following spring. Check often and remove any damaged apples.
    I also can apple pie filling to be used in the winter months. Go online, Google “canning apple pie filling”and follow the recipe using clear gel. My wife has been complementing me on the apple pie filling when she uses it to make an apple pie. I do this as a hobby to see what works well for my family and it is fun to use some of the practices that have been tried and found true from earlier generations. Our grandchildren also get a “kick” out of learning from us as we try new ideas.

  38. Lindsay
    April 14, 2013 | 10:59 am

    A few people have said this already, but I just want to reiterate: storing apples over the winter is a totally normal, healthy, and time-honoured practice. That’s part of what’s so great about apples. Obviously, preserving them with chemicals is a different story, but it shouldn’t concern us to eat year-old apples. That’s what you get at the farmer’s market outside the growing season, just like in the grocery store. There’s nothing to see here.

    • Lindsay
      April 14, 2013 | 11:01 am

      Actually, it seems like some kind of retraction or header should be posted, because this article is really disingenuous.

      • KristenM
        April 14, 2013 | 12:18 pm

        It is in no way disingenuous to write the truth. As I’ve written in numerous comments above, while cold storage & (more recently) wax coatings have been historically used, they never preserved the apple (in its original crisp & juicy state) for more than an average of 4 months. My grandmother’s root cellar was a case in point. Yes you could “keep” apples for longer than 4 months, but you had to be very selective — regularly removing apples that were infected with fungus, worms, or had bruising. You also *knew* that by keeping them for longer, you were sacrificing flavor & texture. Rather than do that, my grandmother would keep apples for 3-5 months, then pick a day and can the rest.

        What’s happening now is radically different. To keep apples “fresh” for an average of 12 months, they are spraying them with 1-MCP and antibiotic fungicides before waxing. And the new cold storage is controlled atmosphere storage where they manipulate the levels of CO2 and O2 in the air to help stall the apples’ production of ethylene. (I’m not saying the controlled-atmosphere storage is inherently BAD, just that it is most certainly NEW and NOT how we’ve traditionally stored apples.)”

    • ludweed
      March 20, 2014 | 6:14 pm

      eat year old apples its your right but dont call it “fresh local produce”

  39. Andrea Merrigan
    April 14, 2013 | 11:52 am

    My husband grew up in WA state, with apple orchards all around and he very rarely eats an apple I purchase at the store. He hates the flavor and texture of apples from the store. He is used to picking them off trees fresh and eating a very crisp apple. Ummm…we wont ask him how he got these fresh tasting apples off the trees, I’m sure from his own tree :) hahaha.

  40. michele
    April 14, 2013 | 2:00 pm

    What if you buy apples from the other said eof the equator during our winter-NZ? Australia? Are they likley to be more fresh and nutritious??

  41. Stephanie
    April 17, 2013 | 6:19 am

    Where can we find a list of what’s fresh when for our region? I am in Pennsylvania.

  42. Jack
    April 20, 2013 | 3:12 am

    Monsanto puts out GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms. Many foods are subjected to GMO processing such as adding pesticides to corn so that pesticides grow in the new ear of corn automatically.

    There is a strong challenge to GMO going on. The major thrust by opponents is to get all GMO modified foods labeled as such.

    Monsanto is fighting this.

    It is my understanding that organic foods are NOT GMO.
    I believe we are still safe there.

  43. Jack
    April 20, 2013 | 3:14 am

    Monsanto puts out GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms. Many foods are subjected to GMO processing such as adding pesticides to corn so that pesticides grow in the new ear of corn automatically.

    There is a strong challenge to GMO going on. The major thrust by opponents is to get all GMO modified foods labeled as such.

    Monsanto is fighting this.

    It is my understanding that organic foods are NOT GMO.
    I believe we are still safe there.

    However, it is my opinion that Monsanto is destroying our food supply.

  44. JT
    April 30, 2013 | 2:45 pm

    Soooooo….. what are you supposed to do if you don’t live in apple country? Just forego apples altogether? Ah, this makes me really sad! (My 4-year-old son will be devastated – he begs to eat at least 2 apples a day!) Are there any alternatives, if organic doesn’t help?

  45. Vall
    May 2, 2013 | 6:59 pm

    When I heared from my friend today about 1 year old apples, I did not believe. I googled and found this website. I try to be cautious about quality of the food eat and try to organic as much as possible. Looks like organic is not much organic as I thought. Kristen, thanks for the post.

  46. belife obis
    June 30, 2013 | 11:55 pm

    Good lord, I think few people here are missing the point. We all know that apples can be stored for an extensive period of time (say 9 months or so) the point Kristen is trying to make is that certain farms within the industry are going to extreme measures to keep this produce fresh (crisp & sweet) to make money off of all the suckers in America. Welcome to the New World my friends!! This is the industrial standard.

  47. Maria
    July 3, 2013 | 9:22 pm

    Thank you! Grateful to have apples trees in my backyard!

  48. Andrea
    July 12, 2013 | 4:19 pm

    From MSDS sheet: “Prolonged or repeated overexposure to high concentrations of 1-methylcyclopropene vapor or gas, which will be released if product contacts water, may cause reversible effects in hemopoietic system, liver and kidneys.”

    Yikes.

  49. Richard
    August 3, 2013 | 12:32 pm

    Could someone please respond directly to the question, posted several times, about whether apples grown in the Southern Hemisphere (e.g., Argentina, Chile, New Zealand) provide a good, fresher alternative to apples grown in the United States when the Southern Hemisphere apples are purchased during our spring and summer (which are their fall and winter)?

  50. Annie
    October 23, 2013 | 11:01 am

    Just want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for the information you put out in your blog. I am new to ‘real food’ and the information you put out is NOT widely know and is VERY helpful. I’m hoping to solve some health issues by eating real and making other ‘clean’ lifestyle changes, so the information in your blog has been instrumental in helping me to find the way. THANK YOU!!!!!

  51. Carmen
    October 27, 2013 | 6:57 pm

    Oh wow, I never knew that they were stored THAT long…thanks so much for the information! Luckily, there are some apple orchards where I live, so my family have been taking road trips (about an hour and a half) during the weekend to pick apples! At least it’s couple weeks old instead of months!

  52. Jack Hein
    February 10, 2014 | 12:00 pm

    I wish people would do more research before posting incorrect information. I’ve worked in the apple industry all my life. The average age of an apple at a store is NOT 14 months. We harvest apples once a year and do store some varieties for 12 months so we provide a year around supply. But over a 12 month time frame the average age of an apple would be less than 6 months. Now if you ran your test just before apple harvest, the average would be 10-12 months. But if you ran your test late fall the average would be 1-2 months.

    If you want fruit and vegetables for a year round balanced diet, you should be thanking technology for making it possible. We also don’t wax apples, box them, then store them for 14 months. we store them in bulk bins, then pack just prior to shipping.

    Thanks for listening, if you did read this far into my comment.

    Jack Hein

    • ludweed
      March 20, 2014 | 6:20 pm

      hey jack no thanks. we dont need year old apples to achieve a “balanced diet”.

      we should “thank technology” youre joking.

    • Wendy Brannen
      October 9, 2014 | 4:51 pm

      Thanks, Jack. Our comment from USApple is below yours. Have a great harvest season!

      Wendy

  53. Christine Bragg via Facebook
    April 13, 2014 | 7:45 pm

    Oh my, I never knew this. So much to learn!

  54. Betty Zetta via Facebook
    April 13, 2014 | 8:00 pm

    Nothing like picking apples straight from an orchard..

  55. Brenda Duncan Cusick via Facebook
    April 13, 2014 | 8:16 pm

    Good info ! Buy in season, from local farmers, if you can.

  56. Vanessa Contreras via Facebook
    April 13, 2014 | 11:35 pm
  57. Daphne Mortenson via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 1:59 am

    I live in an area where orchards are everywhere. In the winter apples, carrots, potatoes etc are stored. Its spring and we can still buy local apples that are last years crop. They aren’t super crisp but they are good enough to eat.

  58. North Star Orchard via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 4:54 am

    Gold Rush apples will stay in good shape until April – just being kept pretty cold. They are an amazing storage apple! As an apple grower, they’re the only ones I’ll eat in late winter/early spring. Then I wait until our first varieties ripen again in July. I just say “NO” to grocery store apples. Always. You have NO idea how old they are and NO idea how decent they’ll be to eat and NO idea what post-harvest sprays or dips they’ve been treated with. Gross!

  59. Regina Marie Petersen via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 11:20 am

    GROSS!

  60. Russell Shettle via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 12:10 pm

    Well that just about does it for me. I guess there is no good food anywhere on this planet. Is that what I’m learning here?

    • Tamara
      August 18, 2014 | 9:18 pm

      Try the farmers market.

  61. Sarah Lutz Aldrich via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 8:04 pm

    So what fruit should we eat in the winter & spring?

  62. Tiffany 'Moore' Aronson via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 9:46 pm

    My mouth hanging open…I guess it shouldn’t surprise me but it does!

  63. Liz Root Wolf via Facebook
    April 14, 2014 | 10:49 pm

    How else would you get “fresh” apples in April? Unless you live in an area that can grow produce all year round, you’ll get “old” stuff. Grow what you are able, buy fresh and local and in season and then can and freeze whatever possible.

  64. Adam
    April 17, 2014 | 11:03 am

    Of course fresh is best! but in the off season I’m grateful for storage.

    I avoid “birthday apples” by storing my own (good through January), eating store-bought varieties that won’t keep for a full year (such as Macoun), and, in the spring, buying apples from the harvest in Chile and New Zealand.

    Then local apples start in late July (Hooray!) and I can repeat the whole thing again.

  65. Tyler
    May 7, 2014 | 9:11 pm

    Im so glad people are waking up to this corruption of our food supply im 22 years old and im sick and tired of not being able to eat healthy everyone spread the word we need better food better water and better well basically everything in supermarkets is bad nowdays from food to laundry detergent to antipresperants and more learn whats happening around you dont take peoples word for it I always feel so upset about everything but then crack a smile when i hear of people actually caring about changing the world for the better Peace Love 2014 ps sorry for the lack of punctuation

  66. Mark
    June 13, 2014 | 12:52 pm

    The method came under scrutiny by the press during late 2005, and it was revealed the method is occasionally used to inhibit ripening of fruit by even a year, causing consumers to purchase year-old fruit without being aware of it. Fruits which have been treated with 1-MCP do not underlie any labeling regulations, are allowed for use with certified organic foods, and are therefore non distinguishable from non-treated products.

  67. Tamara
    August 18, 2014 | 9:17 pm

    Duh. As a farmer it baffles me that people don’t understand that just because something is available in the grocery store 365 days a year that it is only harvested once a year! Apples are harvested in fall, only. Garlic is harvested in summer, only. You cannot make these crops change to another time of year. The rest of the time you have to buy stored ones or get them from the other hemisphere. I prefer to get apples from the southern hemisphere in spring because the fuel needed to bring them to the US is not as bad as that needed to store them in warehouses in the US from fall to spring to be able to buy grown in the US fruit.

  68. Titilayo Densu-Tetteh via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 7:05 pm

    Heard that all fruits and veggies in cold storage a year before selling in supermarkets and is called freshest get out of a garden……..yea,right

  69. Karen Hulak Winiarz via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 7:31 pm

    Same thing with potatoes

  70. Angela Knoth Gioffre via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 7:52 pm

    It depends on the time of year . right now is Apple season.

  71. Vertina Robinson via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 7:57 pm

    Scowl. Grimace. But thank you.

  72. Faith Epp via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 8:52 pm

    Really? That’s not good. I suppose organic apples don’t fall in this category? It doesn’t say.

  73. Anna Savage-Powers via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 9:15 pm

    Well, if you know a little bit about apples, some varieties are not meant to be eaten off the tree, but take time to ripen, far into the winter, it is considered a good thing. Many of these varieties are old heirlooms, I know that is not always what they sell in the store, but apples were meant for storing- it’s a blessing :-) I certainly don’t condone spraying apples with yucky stuff, we just need to bring back those glorious varieties that do keep all by themselves, the ones that are designed to naturally keep.

  74. Christopher Dobbins via Facebook
    September 30, 2014 | 10:27 pm

    there arent many good tasting apples in the stores these days

  75. Ericca Littleton Souther via Facebook
    October 1, 2014 | 3:24 pm

    Organic as well? I know that store purchased (organically) are also sprayed when it comes to apples, just not as heavily. :(
    I have not found anything local in Texas for apples, only pears.

  76. Roxanne Rieske via Facebook
    October 1, 2014 | 11:21 pm

    Your article is not exactly the complete truth. If you are buying apples February through August, yes they are storage apples, because fresh apple season is late August through December. It’s easy to tell storage apples from fresh. They are not as juicy or sweet and have a sour tinge to their flavor. A lot of storage apples will also develop a green ring right underneath the skin. That being said, storage apples are not inherently bad, many have been bred to be stored with no loss of freshness or nutrition.

  77. Roxanne Rieske via Facebook
    October 1, 2014 | 11:25 pm

    And the ethelyne gas used to ripen stored apples is the exact same gas that bananas and avocados give off during ripening. It’s not toxic.0

  78. Wendy Brannen
    October 2, 2014 | 2:36 pm

    Ms. Michaelis,
    In regard to your article about the storage length of apples, there are many points which we find untrue, and so, in fairness and on behalf of all U.S. apple growers, U.S. Apple Association would like the opportunity to post a comment alongside those of your other readers.

    The concept that apples are commonly stored for more than a year is silly. It would defy logic and economics. Controlled atmosphere storage, or CA storage, is emptied out by June and July each year in time for the new harvest. It would be extremely costly and counterintuitive for us to store more than we can sell in a year. This storage data is collected by our industry, and we do not store apples for a year or 14 months or any of the other long time frames you reference. Nor do we at U.S. Apple Association have any familiarity with the term “birthday apple” that you say is a common term implying this is a common practice.

    CA storage is a safe and simple method in which we merely alter the levels of the elements we breathe each day—this would be oxygen and carbon dioxide as is noted in your quote from the USDA Agriculture Research Service—and store at a cold temperature. Essentially, the apples take a nap because the oxygen is lowered, with healthy apples going into storage and healthy apples coming out.

    To your point about nutritional values being lost over time, there is some small truth in that a few nutrients may be slowly lost. But, to imply that all nutrients disappear is highly inaccurate and discourages consumption. To eat tasty, safely-stored apples with slightly fewer nutrients is exponentially better for us than to have only rotten apples available and thus eat no apples at all. You yourself point out that apples are rich in dietary fiber and, “a source of polyphenols — antioxidants that can help fight cancer and improve post-workout recovery by reducing muscle fatigue.” We will be happy to share data proving apples, in addition to those two important functions, can help prevent or fight the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, asthma, Type II Diabetes, and numerous other illnesses and conditions.

    You say, “Once you buy your apples, store them on your counter top rather than the fridge.” Contrarily, apples stored in the fridge stay fresh anywhere from 4-6 weeks before rotting, just as the cold temperature in traditional coolers or CA storage keeps apples from quickly rotting. In fact, they’ll keep 6-10 times longer in the refrigerator than on your counter.

    SmartFresh (1-MCP) is an important tool we use to keep apples fresher longer so that they can even reach your counter or fridge. The active ingredient is very similar to naturally-occurring ethylene. Because of that similarity, SmartFresh interacts seamlessly with the apple to prevent ripening. It is safe, effective, and is approved for use in both organic and conventionally-grown apples in dozens of countries. We are fortunate that through this product we can enjoy quality, tasty, and most importantly, healthy apples more than just a few weeks each fall.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    Wendy Brannen, Director of Consumer Health & Public Relations
    U.S. Apple Association

  79. Wendy Brannen
    October 2, 2014 | 3:32 pm

    An addendum to that post, SmartFresh is approved in dozens of countries for conventionally-grown produce, and both organic and conventionally-grown apples are safe.

    Furthermore, the maker of SmartFresh has a list of studies that show SmartFresh actually slows down nutrient loss over time in apples and other fruits by keeping the produce fresh. We would be happy to share that data and references.

    W. Brannen, U.S. Apple Association

    • John McAdams
      October 3, 2014 | 12:20 pm

      Thanks Wendy,

      It seems that this day and age people have forgotten why we started doing things in the past. We stopped growing everything organic when it wasn’t a viable, large scale alternative. We want safe, fresh produce year round, it may be stored or come from other countries. Everything has a cost and to get a Golden Delicious in March, it is a very small price indeed. The internet has expanded our knowledge base a thousand times but I can find dozens of untrue posts on Facebook every day that 2 minutes of research could have prevented. Some are just silly but some are downright dangerous in what they tell people to do, or not to do. Living in a perfectly sustainable world would be wonderful but most of us live in places where we don’t have nearly enough room to grow what we need. Keep up the great work.

      • Wendy Brannen
        October 9, 2014 | 4:42 pm

        Thanks, John. And, a very valid point about our often-short memories and why we do what we do in this case to offer safe, reliable produce supplies year-round.

        Wendy

    • john m
      October 11, 2014 | 10:15 pm

      I agree that some of the statements posted are extreme & incorrect, but my cynicism has found a “study to show” about anything is good stuff that someone had the money to pay for.

      What about the folks who developed the skin infections from the chemicals?

      I eat store bought apples/fruit year round for lack of choice and look for locally grown in season.

  80. Jen Stockbridge via Facebook
    October 3, 2014 | 9:33 am

    Of course store apples aren’t “fresh.” When you buy apples at the store you are paying the grocer to keep them from rotting instead of storing them in a root cellar or in a fridge at your house…where YOU would be responsible for keeping them edible for the long haul. And, by the way, if your backyard tree blossoms get nuked by a late frost, you’d have no apples at all for the year. I for one am happy to buy an apple at the grocery store in JUNE if I just can’t wait for the fall harvest.

  81. Shevy
    October 14, 2014 | 5:58 am

    All apples say “fresh”! How do I know which ones really are?

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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