Not too long ago, a bin of apples rolled in from the fields at Cherry Hill Orchard Outlet. The orchard has grown the Jonamac variety for about 20 years. It’s a good eating apple and works for baking, too.
“I think they’re the nicest Jonamacs I’ve ever seen,” says Phyllis Shenk, co-manager of the orchard.
A spring with few cold nights, plus a good amount of rain and plenty of sunshine have made it a great growing season for apples at the orchard near New Danville.
Just a few miles away at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm, every variety harvested so far this year has hail damage. Some apples have indents small enough not to break the skin. Some were nearly sheared in half by the hail, orchard manager Clair Kauffman says.
For orchards spared the hail from summer thunderstorms, this is a good year for apples in Lancaster County. It is welcome news after last year’s soggy weather put a damper on the size of the crop and waterlogged the flavor.
“This year, we’re back to a great flavor,” says Tad Kuntz, orchard and farm market manager at Masonic Village Farm Market in Elizabethtown.
The orchard at Masonic Village he manages has more than 65 varieties of apples, some of which are part of the farm’s pick-your-own operation. While Kuntz has noticed the apples’ flavors are much better than last year, he’s still waiting for some cool nights to add some extra color to the fruit.
Across the country, farmers will harvest nearly 250 million bushels of apples, up 1 percent from last year, according to the U.S. Apple Association. In Pennsylvania, the crop will be about 11.5 million bushels, down 1 percent from the five-year average.
Through the season, which continues well into November, expect to see lots of Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Granny Smith, which are the top five varieties grown around the country.
At Kauffman’s in Ronks, the bins are filled with shiny Macintosh, Fuji, Gala, Golden Supreme apples and more. It’s been difficult this year for crews to pick through the hail-battered crop and find apples that are market-ready, Kauffman says.
Some varieties have damage to more than half of the fruit, and some varieties have damage affecting up to 70 percent of the fruit. Because of the damage, the apple might heal the wound with a scab or ripen early and fall from the tree.
These apples can still be used to make cider. Yet Kauffman prefers for the apples grown on the farm to become the top-rated fruit sold at the market.
With more apples going to cider presses, this isn’t the year to wait to pick up a favorite type.
“Generally, we will be sold out sooner than normal,” Kauffman says.