Where do your tastes fall on the sweet-tart apple spectrum? I enjoyed a deliciously juicy First Kiss apple at the State Fair this year. One of the apples on the early end of the local harvest, it certainly hit the spot after cheese curds. I had my first taste of this new apple variety when it came out a few years ago—I like its tart/sweet flavor, so did my son, but my husband thinks it’s a little too tart for his liking. (Check out the post here if you’re curious to learn more about this variety.)
Have you tried the First Kiss? Are you among the many fans of Honeycrisp? Or Haralson more to your tastes? When will they all be ripe for the picking? I again wondered how the apple season is shaking out and if the drought this growing season may have had an impact on the local apple harvest, so checked in with John Jacobson of the Minnesota Apple Growers Association and Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake.
“The cool spring did delay the bloom by about seven to 10 days; we did seem to catch up a little with the warm weather during the summer,” Jacobson says. And he noted most of the varieties have some form of irrigation, so they should be only slightly impacted by the lack of moisture.
Many orchards also offer activities such as hay rides, mazes, and more. Some activities were put on hold over the past few years so check with the individual orchard you are interested in visiting for its up-to-date offerings. At Pine Tree, for example Jacobson says, “Most of the outside events are back, with the exception of wagon rides—staffing issues have put them on the back burner—although we have expanded the walk through the orchard and made it more informational.”
And orchards often have baked goodies and more for purchase. Last year when my family and I went to Pine Tree, the air was filled with an enticingly sweet aroma and we discovered it was their popular apple doughnuts that the staff was churning out as quickly as possible to satisfy the people lined up to get a freshly baked batch. We snagged ours, along with a frozen pie, a bag of apples, and cider, and enjoyed our treats at one of the picnic tables on the lawn.
Some orchards offer pick-your-own apples and others, such as Pine Tree, pick them and have them available for purchase in their store so make sure to check ahead. “We have an ample supply of early apples (First Kiss) included. The crop looks great and we are looking forward to a great year,” says Jacobson.
Local Apple Harvest Estimates 2022
Whether you are a fan of the early apples or waiting for other varieties to ripen (check out the Minnesota Hardy varieties here), keep in mind the harvest estimates below. Call ahead to confirm what’s ripe for the picking or just go and enjoy whatever apples are available when you go. You’re bound to have a delicious time.
- First Kiss: Ready
- Zestar: Ready
- SweeTango: Ready
- McIntosh: September 12
- Sweet Sixteen: September 21
- Cortland: September 21
- Honeycrisp: September 28
- Haralson: September 28
- Honeygold: October 1
- Red Fireside: October 10
- Regent: October 12
- Keepsake: October 12
Finding an Orchard
Along with Pine Tree Apple Orchard, the east metro is also home to Aamodt’s Apple Farm in Stillwater—where you can pick your own apples weekdays but not on weekends; they are available for purchase in the apple barn at that time—and Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings. The western metro includes Apple Jack Orchards in Delano and more.
If you are looking for a nearby orchard or want to plan a day trip, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture offers this searchable map on its Minnesota Grown website that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
Apple Storage Tip
If you refrigerate apples as soon as you bring them home, it will slow ripening and maintain flavor so they can keep from four to six weeks. Then you will be sure to have them on hand for snacking and to use in a great variety of recipes.
Hungry for Apple Recipes?
If you would like to use your apples in dishes savory and sweet, here is a roundup of recipes I have highlighted on this site:
Easy as Pie
Fear not: It’s easier than you think to make delicious pie—we’ll start with apple.
Apple Pancakes with Maple-Apple Sauce
It’s apple harvest time, so step up your breakfast with apples in the pancake mix plus a sweet apple maple sauce to top it all off.
Apples mix up great meals from dinner (Pork Fajitas with Apple-Cilantro Salsa) to dessert (Apple-Hazelnut Cheesecake Tart).
Caramel Apple Mace Shortcakes
Whip up a delicious combination of caramel apples and shortcakes for any get-together.
Cinnamon Apple Cake
As the all-too-short summer turns to autumn, enjoying a harvest treat can help ease it in.
Autumn Harvest Salad
Apples join spinach, dried cranberries, and a little bacon—which makes everything better—in a nutrient-packed salad.
Apple-Pecan Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce
More apple than cake, this is rich and spicy and satisfying in ways pie never could be.
Embrace fall with flavorful muffins that are crunchy and rich with cheese and walnuts as well as tangy fruit.
Curried Apple-Squash Soup
Need another idea for all those apples you’ve picked? Combine them with squash in this vibrant soup and celebrate a twofold harvest.