By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau
Because “Apple Month” occurs in the fall, October by the way, and Arizona families are focused on making the delicious, healthy fruit such an important part of all their fall and holiday cooking and celebrating, Arizona families need to know that Johnny Appleseed may have made it to our desert state, but it’s our apple farmers that are really allowing us to pick this amazing and versatile fruit.
According to Robert E. Call, U. of A. retired extension agent who covered Cochise and Graham counties as a horticulture educator, “Apples are actually one of the most difficult crops to grow,” he says. “To be productive and truly grow them right you have to do 63 different production steps to take care of the trees.”
While Briggs & Eggers, farming in the Willcox area, is Arizona’s only commercial apple producer, our smaller U-pick apple farms also help us get to our Arizona apples. Plus, Briggs & Eggers is on Fill Your Plate because it sells some roadside stand apples. Briggs and Eggers also ship all over the United States and is the only grower of Pink Ladies during the fall period in Arizona because of the state’s four-week jump on the harvest season.
“We’ve been USDA certified organic since 1989,” says Lance Eggers of Briggs & Eggers. “We can pack 1,000 boxes a day at the height of the season. We produce a quality product and are focused on maintaining a reputation of a real good, high-quality grower and packer.”
Members of Arizona Farm Bureau, Briggs & Eggers now have approximately 460 acres of apple orchards. They’re currently producing 500 tons of apples per year, but once all the trees are producing will ship anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 tons of apples to Florida and New York on the East Coast and San Francisco and San Diego on the west coast and everywhere in between. You can find them in all the specialty organic markets under the Covilli label and watch for the “grown and packed by Briggs and Eggers” to find out they grew in our bright Arizona sun.
Eggers also said he sees “a bright future for apples in Arizona and one of the reasons we’re tied in with a national distributor and co-pack for them.” He adds, “We see a good market for our organic apples and a lot of opportunity to grow our market.”
We also have the well-known Apple Annie’s, also Farm Bureau members, that Arizona families have come to love and make part of their fall family trek to the farm.
The best news? Arizona apples have some unique qualities that Arizona apple growers can be proud of.
- Arizona apples are sweeter overall than just about any other state because they love the sun. Our 300+plus days of sun produce some very sweet fruit.
- This includes the Granny Smith Apple that most people think is sour and tart. The Arizona Granny Smith apple has a sweet tartness to it that’s like none other.
- Because of our climate, our apple harvests get a 3 to 4 week jump on the market.
- We grow a variety of apples: Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, Sundowner and Granny Smith
Arizona’s climate has always been a key component to our state’s success in agriculture. As we celebrate Arizona Farm Bureau’s centennial in the coming years and the state’s 5 “C’s” we hope to continue celebrating climate and agriculture into the future. Our Arizona apples certainly do!
More Fun Facts about Apples
- Apples are a member of the rose family, just like pears and plums. They can range in size from as small as a cherry to as big as a grapefruit.
- The crabapple is the only apple native to North America.
- An apple tree can live for more than 100 years.
- 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, but only 100 varieties are grown commercially in 36 states in America. They grow in all 50 states. It’s estimated that 7,500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world.
- Apples come in all shades of red, green, and yellow.
- A standard-size apple tree starts bearing fruit 8 to 10 years after it’s planted. A dwarf tree starts bearing in 3 to 5 years. Most apple blossoms are pink when they open, but gradually transition to white.
- Apple trees can be grown farther north than other fruit trees because they bloom late in spring, minimizing the chance of frost damage.
- 25 percent of an apple’s volume is air; that’s why they float.
- Most apples are still picked by hand in the fall.
- Americans eat more apples per capital than almost any other fruit fresh and processed combined (with the possible exception of the tomato, which is a fruit). In fact, the average person eats 65 apples each year.
- Two pounds of apples make one 9-inch pie.
- Apple blossom is the state flower of Michigan.
- Apples are fat, sodium, and cholesterol free. They contain high levels of boron, which increases mental alertness. And, apples also contain malic acid, a chemical used in teeth whitening products, which helps dissolve stains.
- A medium apple is about 80 calories.
- Apples are a great source of the fiber pectin. One apple has five grams of fiber.
- The pilgrims planted the first United States apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- The science of apple growing is called pomology.
- Apple trees take four to five years to produce their first fruit.
- Apple varieties range in size from a little larger than a cherry to as large as a grapefruit.
- Apples are propagated by two methods: grafting or budding.
- The apple tree originated in an area between the Caspian and the Black Sea.
- Apples were the favorite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans.
- Apples harvested from an average tree can fill 20 boxes that weigh 42 pounds each.
- The largest apple picked weighed three pounds.
- Europeans eat about 46 pounds of apples annually.
- The average size of a United States orchard is 50 acres.
- Many growers use dwarf apple trees.
- Charred apples have been found in prehistoric dwellings in Switzerland.
- Some apple trees will grow over 40 feet high and live over 100 years.
- Most apples can be grown farther north than most other fruits, because they blossom late in spring, minimizing frost damage.
- It takes the energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple.
- Apples are the second most valuable fruit grown in the United States. Oranges are first.
- In colonial time, apples were called winter banana or melt-in-the-mouth.
- Apples have five seed pockets or carpels. Each pocket contains seeds. The number of seeds per carpel is determined by the vigor and health of the plant. Different varieties of apples will have different number of seeds.
- World’s top apple producers are China, United States, Turkey, Poland and Italy.
- The Lady or Api apple is one of the oldest varieties in existence.
- Newton Pippin apples were the first apples exported from America in 1768, some were sent to Benjamin Franklin in London.
- In 1730, the first apple nursery was opened in Flushing, New York.
- One of George Washington’s hobbies was pruning his apple trees.
- America’s longest-lived apple tree was reportedly planted in 1647 by Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard and was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.
- Apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated.
- A peck of apples weight 10.5 pounds.
- A bushel of apples weights about 42 pounds and will yield 20-24 quarts of applesauce.
- Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C.
- The world’s largest apple peel was created by Kathy Wafler Madison on October 16, 1976, in Rochester, NY. It was 172 feet, 4 inches long. (She was 16 years old at the time and grew up to be a sales manager for an apple tree nursery.) (Source: Guinness World Records)
- It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.
- Apples account for 50 percent of the world’s deciduous fruit tree production.
- The old saying, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” comes from an old English adage, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread.”
- Don’t peel your apple. Two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants are found in the peel. Antioxidants help to reduce damage to cells, which can trigger some diseases. In fact, apples are an excellent source of fiber; one medium apple contains 5 grams of fiber, including the soluble fiber pectin.
- In 2005, United States consumers ate an average of 46.1 pounds of fresh apples and processed apple products. That’s a lot of applesauce!
- Sixty-three percent of the 2005 U.S. apple crop was eaten as fresh fruit.
- In 2005, 36 percent of apples were processed into apple products; 18.6 percent of this is for juice and cider, two percent was dried, 2.5 percent was frozen, 12.2 percent was canned, and 0.7 percent was fresh slices. Other uses were the making of baby food, apple butter or jelly and vinegar.
- The top apple producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
- In 2006, 58% of apples produced in the United States were produced in Washington, 11% in New York, 8% in Michigan, 5% in Pennsylvania, 4% in California and 2% in Virginia.
- Almost one out of every four apples harvested in the United States is exported.
- Many apples after harvesting and cleaning have commercial grade wax applied. Waxes are made from natural ingredients.
- National Apple Month is the only national, generic apple promotion conducted in the United States. Originally founded in 1904 as National Apple Week, it was expanded in 1996 to a three-month promotional window from September through November.
- On August 21, 2007 the GoldRush apple was designated as the official Illinois’state fruit. GoldRush is a sweet-tart yellow apple with a long shelf life. The apple is also the state fruit of Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
Go to Fill Your Plate for recipes with apples and to read more articles about health, nutrition and the food Arizona agriculture produces.