This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
No sooner are our fruits well housed for winter than the question is asked by neighbors, "Are your apples keeping well? Mine are rotting badly." Let me suggest where the difficulty comes in.
1. Apples are not picked properly. My pickers must carefully loosen each apple and lay it in the basket. The usual custom is to pull roughly and drop or toss into a basket, from three inches to a foot, or even farther. This breaks a few cells, and prepares for early decay. It takes longer, but is in the end a great saving of time to compel your men to handle apples like eggs.
2. Apples are not handled properly after picking. My plan is to have them poured over the hands into a wagon, in which is spread some soft rowen. From the wagon they are sorted and placed in the cellar. I do not like the plan of pouring in piles on the ground, or placing under sheds. If properly handled, they may better be at once placed in bins in a cool, well ventilated cellar. If to be sold at once, I place them in piles and sort into barrels. But the chief point at this stage is to prevent the pouring of apples from the basket, or bouncing them into piles; and then pouring them into barrels from the top to the bottom. At least one-half of the American apple crop suffers in this way, in the barreling.
3. Apples are improperly sorted. There should be three grades. The first of those absolutely free from bruise, worm holes or any defect that can cause decay. The second, of those that will probably keep a long while, but may decay and spoil others. The third, of apples for early use. The first grade will not trouble one till their full maturity. The second will need a careful review in December. The third must be kept under supervision and used early. All that rot will prove of use for fowls or cattle. Not an animal of any kind about a farm but should have plenty of apples all winter. It is the cheapest and healthiest food. Nature does her best to help the whole of us to whom she has given a taste for apples.
4. Apples are not properly stored. The cellar should be cool, just above freezing. It should be well ventilated and kept moderately dry. It should be just dry enough to prevent mildew, but not so dry as to shrivel the fruit. It is nearly impossible to keep apples well in a cellar where there is a furnace. The apples should lie in bins, or in very fresh clean barrels. The cellar should be kept as clean as the kitchen, and frequently swept. No odor of decaying vegetables should be tolerated. The floor should be clay, grouted if necessary. No old decaying wood should be left inside. Cider and vinegar barrels should be fresh and without leak. Apples take bad odors almost as readily as butter.
5. Apples are not properly marketed. If your cellar stock goes to market in winter, there should be the same precision in handling as in autumn was used in storing. It is important to keep the reputation of your brand good. There is need of careful discrimination as to time for marketing different varieties. There is no profit in holding on to your Spitzenbergs beyond December; your Greenings beyond January; your Snow and Belmonts and other varieties that may keep late will not pay beyond December. Jonathans, Swaars and Baldwins will do to hold till March or April. Newtown Pippins, Kirklands and Spys, with Roxbury Russets should be put away so carefully that they need not be sold before May, - even late in the month. Kirklands and Spys I have sold as late as May 25th, with large profit. The late keepers are by far the most profitable. But they are a dead loss if badly handled.
The standing rule is - handle apples like eggs and they will not decay. Lay them into the basket; lay them out of it. Lay them into their bins or barrels. Never drop, toss nor roll about your fruit and you will be able to answer, "0, they are keeping finely in my cellar, hardly any rotten ones."