Harvesting Honeycrisp Apples


Originally published in October 2014; updated August 2021.

Honeycrisp apples tree orchard It’s the most sought after apple in supermarkets today and almost always comes out on top when we ask people what their favorite apple is. Juicy with a honey-sweet flavor and incredible fracture, Honeycrisp apples are truly special. In this post, I’m going to share the extra measures we take to ensure that every Honeycrisp apple is harvested with care. After all, it takes special care to harvest a special apple like Honeycrisp.

When does Honeycrisp harvest start?

Honeycrisp apple harvest gets underway in late August or early September in Washington State and continues for about a month. Here at Stemilt, we are just about done with Honeycrisp apple harvest for the year. Our growers use a variety of methods to determine when to harvest their Honeycrisp apple crop. They get a harvest range off the dates their trees were in bloom in the spring. Then, they closely monitor the fruit in the weeks and days leading up to harvest. They look at color and take samples off the tree to determine when to start picking.

When I was growing up and Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith apples dominated the apple volumes in Washington State, we’d complete one sweep of the orchard to harvest these apple varieties. Fast-forward to today and harvest for bi-colored varieties like Honeycrisp occurs multiple times in the same location. That’s because not every apple gets the same amount of sunlight throughout the growing season and some need more time on the tree to mature and color. Harvesting Honeycrisp apples multiple times ensures consistency among fruit color, flavor, and overall quality.

How does Honeycrisp get harvested?

Honeycrisp on the tree

Just like other apple varieties, every Honeycrisp apple is harvested by hand. The harvester lifts the apple and twists it slightly to take it off the tree.

Then, they clip the stem to shorten it in order to prevent punctures to other apples. The apple is gently placed into a picking bag, which once full, is emptied into a larger bin.

Honeycrisp (and SweeTango® apples) is delicate in nature, so rather than dumping the bag into the bin all at once, each apple is placed by hand into the bin. This tedious process not only makes for a beautiful and organized bin, but does the important job of protecting the fruit in order to reduce bruising.

Once full, the bin is taken to a nearby Stemilt receiving location where our quality control team determines whether the apples are placed in controlled atmosphere storage, or packed immediately and shipped to your stores.

Now that you know how Honeycrisp apples are harvested, you can enjoy them even more! The next time you bite into a delicious Stemilt Honeycrisp apple, relish in the fact that these special apples were grown, harvested, and packed with lots of TLC!