Why Grocery Store Apples May Be Older Than You Think

Grocery stores all over the U.S. offer up mountains of fresh produce every single day. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture determined that delicate fruits like strawberries have a shelf life of only five to seven days, even if kept refrigerated, while hardier crops like carrots might last seven to nine months in the fridge. Research published in Fruit, Vegetable and Cereal Science and Biotechnology examined reasons why soft fruits like strawberries might need to be handled more carefully than other fruits and veggies, but are there other factors that affect how long sturdier produce like apples stay fresh and good to eat?

When it comes to fruits, Vegetable and Fruit News of the University of Maryland tells us that they typically are sorted into two baskets: climacteric and non-climacteric. Non-climacteric fruits like cherries, grapes, and most berries do not ripen after harvest, which means that they must be harvested only when fully ripe and that they typically need to be consumed fairly soon after harvest or purchase, as they will get softer and begin to rot as they age, according to research from Iowa State University. Climacteric fruits like apples, peaches, bananas, and avocados, on the other hand, continue to ripen after harvest, meaning that there can be a bigger window between harvest dates and optimal consumption dates.

So how old are those apples

Most apples in the U.S. are harvested from July through October. According to Eat By Date, their shelf life varies by variety of apple. For example, firmer varieties like Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji, and Gala last longer (per Stemilt World Famous Fruit) than softer varieties like Golden Delicious. If apples are stored cold — between 30-40 degrees F — their shelf life can range from 1-12 months (per the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture). That means the apples you see in the grocery store could be up to a year old!

Newer varieties of apples are being developed specifically with flavor and longevity in mind. The University of Minnesota is justifiably proud of its state fruit, the Honeycrisp apple variety, which can last at least seven months in proper storage conditions. According to the website for Cosmic Crisp apples, a cross between the Honeycrisp and the Enterprise varieties, was developed at Washington State University and has a shelf life of 10-12 months (per Insider). So yes, the apples you see in the grocery store might be months old, but that doesn't mean that they're not fresh. Don't forget that keeping your apples nice and cool means that they'll stay fresh even longer; just perfect for baking an apple pie