Robust apple harvest expected in Washington thanks to ideal weather

September and October are generally considered the best times to pick apples, but the season can run into November. If an apple is picked too early, the fruit won’t be sweet. After an apple is picked, it will continue to ripen but won’t get any sweeter.

A fruit that many associate with the bedrock of the country is not even native to the North American continent, but that isn’t stopping billions of pounds of apples from being produced every year.

States such as Washington, New York and Pennsylvania lead the country in production, and agriculture experts said the harvest is highly dependent on temperatures.

Extensive heat waves, as experienced in 2021, or sudden cold snaps seen just last year can be detrimental to a season’s productivity. According to the Washington State Tree and Fruit Association, this year has not dealt with either extreme.

"We grow most of our apples in Washington State on the east slope of the Cascades," said John Delaney, the president of the association. "Everyone associates Washington state with rainy Seattle, both east of the mountains and down the center of the state, we have very dry conditions, and we irrigate our crops. So, warm, dry conditions are what we expect."

The picking season is well underway, and due to Mother Nature and advancements in types of apples, 2023 is not a repeat of recent years.

At least 134 million boxes will be produced in the Evergreen State this year, according to estimates. That is about 30 million more than last year.



"We used to be much more concentrated in just a couple of varieties," Delaney said. "Those varieties like Red Delicious, Golden Delicious are still out there, but there’s a lot of new and emerging varieties being introduced all the time, whether that’s Honeycrisp, the Cosmic Crisp or any number of others."

Delany said a variety of apples can reduce the risk of weather adversely affecting the crop. It can also lead to an extended picking season versus one that is bundled and inefficient.

The Honeycrisp is, by far, American’s current favorite choice of apple because of its crunchy texture and juicy center. According to the U.S. Apple Association, Honeycrisp production has increased by 46% during the past five years. Apples such as the Red Delicious have seen production drop by a similar figure.



"We learned today during an Outlook 2023 presentation that 48% of consumers say they generally buy the same variety of apple every time they shop," Chris Gerlach, an analytics director at USApple, stated during an industry outlook. "That means 52% of shoppers might be willing to make an apple purchase based on different attributes, like flavor, appearance, and store promos."

The University of Illinois Extension office estimated there are about 2,500 varieties of apples grown across the country, with only about 100 that are commercially harvested.