Apples have a rich history of being wholesomely beautiful and irresistible to eat. But what you may not realize is that for every perfect grocery store apple, many are turned away, leading to food waste and less revenue for growers. The reality is that apples have some of the highest cosmetic standards to meet in the produce industry. The smallest blemish or variation in color, size, or weight can mean an apple gets picked from the bunch and kicked to the curb. A nutritious, perfectly tasty apple might not make the grocery store cut for several reasons. Here are some of the most common ones:
Leaf or Limb Rub
As you might imagine, there are a lot of branches and leaves on an apple tree. Which means there’s a lot of risk for something to rub against the apple on a windy day. If a leaf or limb scrapes an apple and leaves a mark larger than 1/4th of an inch, it’s considered damaged goods.
Russeting is a brownish, net-like texture that appears as a small patch on many apple varieties. It’s completely natural and doesn’t harm the quality or taste of the apple.
When apples that are grown in wetter areas like Michigan and New York experience a heat wave, a harmless brownish “rust” can appear on the skin.
Hail can devastate an orchard, but it’s also possible for apples to heal from a hailstorm, leaving behind small scars on an otherwise tasty apple.
Many apple varieties are sensitive to temperature swings. Exposure to high temperatures for only an hour can create small discolorations on the skin and reduce the apple’s value.
Sometimes yield exceeds demand, and a farmer loses money on an excellent crop. They might be able to find a secondary market like juicing or animal feed, but they’ll end up taking a loss on their perfectly good apples.
Good to the core
These imperfections are only skin deep. So if they taste just as good, these apples shouldn’t have to apple-ogize for who they are. Even if you’re a picky eater, you can always cut out the part you want to avoid and enjoy the rest. An apple with a blemish can also be baked into a muffin, hidden beneath a flakey pie crust, or blended into a savory sauce.
Finding homes for these apples – your home to be specific – is part of the solution to food waste. This fall, let’s celebrate all apples!