Let’s talk Bugs in the Orchard
We’ve always gotten questions about blemishes and marks on our apples, and after last year’s less-than-perfect crop, we got even more. Apples can be affected by lots of abiotic (sun, wind, hail) and biotic (insects, vertebrates, diseases) factors. Bugs seem to be a sensitive topic, because most people don’t like the idea of them touching their food. But for us, bugs are a natural part of the orchard. Some we like, some we don’t, but all of them are there to stay, and we do our best to manage them.
The huge, glossy apples that you see in the grocery store don’t come from an orchard full of perfect huge, glossy apples. The fruit is picked and then sorted into different categories, or grades, to meet rigorous quality standards including size (diameter) and color. There is zero tolerance for blemishes of any kind. This category is called Extra Fancy, and is the category that all the loose, stickered apples in the grocery store are in. That means a lot of apples are left behind at the orchards. At big operations, the apples that don’t meet the Extra Fancy grade may be sold to bakeries, cideries or places that make applesauce, juice or preserves, but they are sold at a lower price due to their slight “imperfections.”
We stopped selling to supermarkets three years ago for multiple reasons (the 5:00 AM deliveries being one of them!). In our Farm Store we have less strict standards and only sort into two grades: Fancy and Utility/Cooking. For us, Fancy means perfect, but not necessarily blemish-free. A small scar or discoloration that doesn’t affect the quality of the fruit is perfect to us. It means that the last year of hard work pruning, thinning, weeding, monitoring and treating for pests, irrigating, and waking in the middle of the night to think about our orchard has produced an apple that one of our customers can enjoy!
If you see something on our fruit that you don’t normally see on a supermarket apple, ask us about it! We’re happy to fill you in on what made that mark. And chances are, if it is a mark that came from a bug, it happened months ago when the apple was about the size of a quarter, so the bug is long gone and the mark will only be skin-deep.
And apples aren’t alone! There are spotty peaches, wonky pears, crazy carrots, lopsided tomatoes and more at every farm and in every garden.