Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The 2012 New York State apple crop is coming in like many other fruit crops have this year, but with most farms growing a great variety of apples there are bright spots in what has been a difficult growing season.
According to Molly Golden of the New York Apple Association, apples, like many other locally grown fruit, are bearing a reduced crop at about ten days ahead of schedule. How good the crop is depended largely on location and luck when it came to the weather.
”There was no rhyme or reason this year,” Golden said. “The unseasonably warm temperatures in March woke the apples ‘wake up’ about six weeks too early and when the the weather pattern went back to normal the blossoms and buds froze.”
Golden said that Niagara and Orleans counties fared better than the areas east of Rochester, but across the board similar varieties are doing the best. Gala has been “the shining star of the year,” with cortland and honeycrisp apples also more abundant than popular varieties like red delicious and empire apples.
“This is the year to try new varieties,” Golden said. “If you like a certain kind you need to get them while you can.”
At Hurd Orchards in Holley, more than 50 varieties of heirloom, experimental and mainline apples are growing this year. It’s been a “golden” year for some apples and one to forget for others.
“Our jonagolds, golden delicious and gold rush are all doing well,” said Hurd Orchards’ Sue Machamer. “But others didn’t flourish so well.”
Machamer picked a few New York 1 and New York 2 varieties this week to see how the new varieties, which were introduced in 2010 by Cornell University apple breeder Susan Brown, are stacking up.
“They’re big, beautiful apples,” Machamer said. “New York 1 (an offspring of honeycrisp) was delicious, but New York 2 (a cross between braeburn and autumn crisp) wasn’t ripe yet.”
Those varieties will make their full debut next year.
Most local apple growers produce at least ten different varieties of apples, which in addition to helping ensure at least one variety will survive a difficult year also provides a steady stream of just-ripe apples throughout the autumn.
”It spreads your risk out, but it also spreads your harvest out so that you can be picking all September and October,” said Jim Bittner of Singer Farms, which had strong gala and cortland crops this year on 175 acres in the aptly-named hamlet of Appleton. “Most orchard’s peak for picking is just a few days.”
Bittner said that acey macs will be picked at the orchard this week, with cortlands finished Tuesday.
Those apples will be sent to fruit packagers who store, sort and send large quantities to supermarkets throughout western New York. At Sun Orchard Apples in Burt, the turnaround from the tree to the produce section is just a few days.
“It works good for everyone to have different varieties at different times,” said Tim Mansfield, Sun Orchard’s director of sales and marketing. “We’ve ran galas, macintoshes, ginger goldens and honerycrisps; and we’ll be starting cortlands pretty soon. Empires are next week.”
Roberts Farm Market in Medina, which grows 20 varieties of apples on more than 150 acres, got its first crop of empires Tuesday, although cider made from several varieties has been available all month.
”They just came in,” said Margaret Roberts. “We’ll sell them for fresh eating ... they won’t last long.”
Mansfield said that for the New York varieties finishing their harvests, the yield has been down 35 to 40 percent, making this the smallest percentage of crops harvested since 1945.
The availability of u-pick apples has been curtailed by the reduced crop. Roberts said they will have limited season this year, but there will be cortland, crispin, golden delicious, ira red and macoun apples to pick. In Gasport, Becker Farms won’t have u-pick for the first time in 32 years.
“There were so few and far between that we couldn’t have the public pickings,” Mindy Vizcarra said. “Our pickers are getting what they can ... we’re at about 10 to 15 percent this year. We have enough to make our cider, pies and already picked apples for retail.”
Vizcarra said that the gala apples have come in at about 50 percent the normal yield, with cortlands, jonagolds and crispins also already picked from 20 acres of orchards.
For more information about New York apples, farms selling offering u-pick apples and apple recipes, visit www.nyapplecountry.com.