2017-09-21 / Life in Leelanau

Apple harvest begins, quality ‘just excellent’

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


THE APPLES are ripe and Candelaria Resendiz is picking at Bardenhagen Farms in Suttons Bay Township. It's Resendiz’ eighth year working on the farm. THE APPLES are ripe and Candelaria Resendiz is picking at Bardenhagen Farms in Suttons Bay Township. It's Resendiz’ eighth year working on the farm. A medium apple contains about 100 calories and no fat, sodium or cholesterol, making it perhaps the world’s most perfect snack.

For those who’ve been waiting for a fresh-picked apple all summer, your time has arrived — and a little earlier than usual.

“Everything is coming in with this heat,” said Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station. “The harvest is really beginning in earnest this year. And the quality is just excellent this year.”

Fall’s sunny days and cool nights are also giving the apples a beautiful red color, too, Rothwell said.

The Michigan State University Extension had predicted this year’s harvest to be anywhere from a few to 10 days ahead of schedule, and Rothwell said that prediction was just about right, with Honeycrisps coming in a few days early.


NIKKI ROTHWELL, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, said the quality of apples is “just excellent” this year. Honeycrisps are pictured at the research station. NIKKI ROTHWELL, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, said the quality of apples is “just excellent” this year. Honeycrisps are pictured at the research station. Drought and frost damage was expected to lower the overall size of the apple crop, according to Fruit Growers News, which set expectations for the Michigan crop at 20 million bushels. That estimate is lower than the 24-million bushel average, according to the Michigan Apple Committee.

But local apple-growers and applelovers have no worries.

“Up here in northern Michigan everyone’s got pretty much a full crop,” Rothwell said.

Across the country, the apple industry is being led by a potentially recordsetting crop in Washington, according to Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs at the USApple Association.

Estimates are that the apple crop will come in at about 256 million bushels — 3 percent above the 5-year average and 6 percent greater than last year.

Jim Bardenhagen, who grows about five and half acres of apples on his Suttons Bay Township farm, agrees that the apple crop is very good this year.

Bardenhagen’s apples include Ginger Golds, Galas, Honeycrisps — which he’ll start picking in the next day or so — as well as Liberty and Redfree, which have already been picked.

This year Bardenhagen also has Crimson Crisps, a new varietal that has been cross bred many times using 27 parents, he said. The apple is crisp with a unique flavor, he said.

Grand Rapids got hit by frost this year, so the crop in that area of the state — which produces much of Michigan’s crop — is coming in lighter, Bardenhagen said.

“But for the most part people have a good crop up here,” he said. “It’s a good quality.”

The Leelanau crop was affected most by a light return bloom, he said. There was a really good bloom last year and the trees were not thinned enough, he said. That put the trees under stress, with a lighter bloom being the result.

Some hail fell Aug. 3 that is causing defects in some of the apples, Bardenhagen said.

There has also been a dry spell going on for the last month or so that could eventually affect the size of the apples, he said.

“I’ve not seen an awful lot of small apples anywhere,” he said, adding that a quarter-inch spurt of rain over about three days might have helped.

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