How to Tell When Apples are Ready to Pick

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Apple Trees

Apples often look ready to pick long before they are, so how do you know when they’re really ready? Here are some ways to tell when your apples are ripe:


Some apple varieties have an all red skin or an all yellow or green skin, but most apples have multi-colored skins. Look at the base (or ground) color of your apples. If the base color is green, your apples aren’t ready yet. If the base color is yellow, they are.

How Easily They Come Off the Tree

Apples are easy to separate from the tree when they’re ready. To test their readiness, hold an apple in your hand, lift it towards the stem, and twist. If it comes off easily, it’s ready. If it requires a good bit of yanking and tugging, it isn’t.

Brown Apple Seeds

Color of Seeds

Cut an apple in half, and look at the seeds. If they’re dark brown, the apple is ripe. If they’re white or light brown in color, the apple still has some ripening to do.

Number of Days from Bloom

Make a note of when your apple trees bloom each spring. Then, count out 160-185 days to determine the approximate harvest time for your trees. If you’re growing more than one apple variety, be sure to record the bloom time for each variety; it’s likely to vary some.

Note: While this is good way to predict the harvest date for your apple trees; it’s just that – a prediction. The weather could speed up or slow down this date, so start watching for other signs that your apples are ripe in the weeks leading up to the expected harvest date.

Don’t Go By …

what your neighbors are doing. Some apple varieties ripen in July, while others ripen in November. Your neighbor’s may not have the same kinds of apples as you, so don’t pick your apples just because you see your neighbors’ picking theirs. Do ask your neighbor for advice, though. If they’ve been growing apples for a while, they may be able to help you determine when you should pick yours.

And Don’t Freak Out If …

apples start to fall off your trees. It’s perfectly normal for some apples to fall off the tree before it’s time to harvest. Sometimes they fall off because they’re damaged, and sometimes they’ve simply ripened before the rest of the tree. If the fallen apples don’t seem to have any problems, take it as a sign that the rest of your apples are almost ready, and start watching them for signs of ripeness.

Apples on the Same Tree May Ripen at Different Times

Apples on the outside of the tree tend to ripen first, as do apples on the southern side of the tree, so don’t just assume that all of the apples on the tree are ready because you’ve found some that are. Pick what’s ready, and give the rest time to catch up. If you pick apples at the right time, they’ll be sweeter and they’ll store better, too.

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  1. Great tips! I’m planting apple trees in the spring and hope to make good use of your advice–especially the one about seed color which I didn’t know.

  2. That lift and twist method works like a charm! I live in Los Angeles, the most unlikely location for apples to grow but I saw some apple tree containers with apples already on the trees at my local hardware and garden store and, being from Seattle, decided to give them a try on my deck. Because of the climate where I live, I cannot rely of time tables to know when to harvest. After a few months of growth and thus needed branch support, a few apples have been falling from their tree, despite knowing it’s way too early in the season but after tasting the fallen I noticed they are sweet and ripe, despite their small size. So after reading your article and trying that method, one apple came off very easily (like no effort other than the list and twist) and the others stayed put. Thank you for this tip!

  3. I have a Paradise Apple Tree and the apples are still green but falling from the tree. The seeds are brown inside and they taste wonderful. I’m just not sure how to can them. Would appreciate anyone’s input.

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