Iowa Grown Apples Likely to be Smaller, Taste a Little Different Due to Drought

(Radio Iowa) One of the joys of fall in Iowa is going to an orchard to get apples freshly picked off the trees. ISU Extension fruit crop specialist, Suzanne Slack, says the drought has had some impact, especially for the growers who couldn’t irrigate their crop. One is the size of the fruit you see on the trees.

“It looks like a lot of apples, but they’re really small. So the size isn’t good. They’ve also ripened up to three weeks early, which can be pretty detrimental, especially, you know, trying to get labor and operations up and running,” Slack says. Some apples are impacted in their appearance.

“Some cultivars, like honey crisp is a good one, they don’t transport calcium very well to begin with. And then whenever we have drought and hot conditions, they just don’t do it at all and we get a condition called bitter pit. So a lot of the Honeycrisp across the state have bitter pit this year, which is calcium deficiency,” she says. “It makes them ugly, it makes it makes them have little crevices, like a little pit. They call it bitter because it’s unfortunate and upsetting.”

She says the smaller size and earlier maturation can impact taste as well.

” I think it makes them taste a little bit, not as strong of an apple taste, kind of like more of a mild apple taste,” Slack explains. “They’re still crunchy, they still have a good texture. But they might not have that, like, wham, pow apple flavor that some cultivars have. They also won’t be as juicy.” Slack says getting the apples right out of the orchard is still the best way to ensure you are getting the freshest fruit possible.

“Some of the apples that we’re eating this year from the grocery store might have actually been picked last year. The technology around storing apples is pretty impressive,” she says. “So we can store them for years with controlled environments. So the ones that you’d be getting locally were freshly picked this year.” She says finding an apple orchard in Iowa is not tough.

“According to my records, we have about 50, large to medium operations. But there are a lot of smaller ones that may not be on my list. But pretty much if you live in Iowa, you live within about an hour from an orchard at least, most people live closer than that,” Slack says. Slack says there are also a lot of people who grow their own from a couple of trees to bigger stands.

“We have lots and lots of hobby growers with you know, there’s a couple of folks that have 50 to 100 trees and they don’t sell anything. So there’s every level you can think of,” she says. Slack says with the early maturation, you might want to get out sooner than later to find the best selection of fresh apples.