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How To Tell If An Apple Is Ripe

Ever plucked an apple from a tree or picked one up from a supermarket, only to take a bite and discover that it’s either too hard or too soft?

Understanding how to determine the ripeness of an apple can save you from such a disappointing experience.

Below, we’ll guide you through the easy steps you can follow to ensure every apple you select is perfectly ripe.

Ripe apples on a wooden table with a black and white linen napkin.

Determining a ripe apple involves examining its color, feeling its firmness and weight, and smelling its aroma. Vibrant colors, firm but not hard texture, heaviness for size, and a sweet, fruity aroma signify a ripe apple.

How To Tell When An Apple Is Ripe


Each apple variety has its own color palette which shifts as it ripens. For instance, a ripe Red Delicious apple boasts a deep, dark red color, whereas an unripe one has a lighter hue or may even appear slightly greenish.

Whereas, a ripe Granny Smith apple is a light green or yellow-green instead of green with yellow tints.

Aside from general color indicators, a uniformly colored apple is another sign of ripeness. Some apple varieties, like Red Delicious, should be thoroughly red without any green parts.

While other types might retain some green hue even when ripe, which is why understanding apple varieties is key.


The apple’s feel in your hand is another telling sign of its ripeness.

  1. Firmness: A ripe apple is firm when gently pressed. If the apple is too hard or too soft, it’s likely unripe or overripe.
  2. Weight: An apple’s weight also indicates its ripeness. A ripe apple should feel heavy for its size, which means it’s chock-full of juice.


Don’t underestimate the power of your nose when it comes to determining an apple’s ripeness. A ripe apple usually emits a sweet and fruity aroma.

An absence of smell may indicate an unripe apple, while a too-sweet or fermented smell could mean the apple is past its prime. Check out this post to learn how to tell if fruit is bad to better identify if your apple is bad.


Lastly, nothing confirms ripeness as much as the taste. A ripe apple will have a balance between sweet and tangy flavors.

While it might not be feasible to taste every apple before buying, once you have mastered the above steps, you can pick a few apples, taste them, and adjust your selection accordingly.

The Stem Test

Another technique for checking an apple’s ripeness is the stem test. Gently twist the stem; if it comes off easily, the apple is likely ripe.

However, be careful as this method can potentially damage the apple, especially if it’s done repetitively.

Understanding Apple Varieties

Each apple variety has a unique color, texture, and flavor profile when ripe. Their ripening times also vary, with the apple season generally falling between late summer and late fall.

For example, in many parts of the United States, apple harvest begins in August and continues through October.

Understanding these distinct characteristics can help you better judge the ripeness of different apple varieties.

  1. Red Delicious: These apples are ripe when they’re deep, dark red, and yield slightly under pressure. They’re sweet and juicy when ripe.
  2. Granny Smith: A ripe Granny Smith apple is bright green and firm, with a tart flavor.
  3. Golden Delicious: Look for a golden color for ripeness. They have a tender texture and a sweet, mellow flavor.
Apple VarietyUnripe ColorRipe Color
Red DeliciousLight Red or PinkDeep, Dark Red
Granny SmithGreen with Yellow TintsLight Green or Yellow-Green
Golden DeliciousGreenGolden Yellow

For a more detailed look into the vast world of apple varieties, their unique characteristics, and their best uses, check out this comprehensive guide provided by the US Apple Association.

Storing Your Apples

Once you’ve selected ripe apples, proper storage is essential to maintain their quality. Keep them in a cool, dark place for short-term storage.

If you want to store them for a longer period, put them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer, away from other fruits and vegetables to prevent over-ripening due to ethylene gas.

To extend the apple’s shelf life even further, consider freezing them. This method retains the apple’s nutritious properties and is perfect for whipping up smoothies or incorporating them into other delightful recipes later on.

Ripening Apples At Home

If you’ve brought home apples that are less ripe than you’d prefer, don’t worry! Apples can continue to ripen off the tree.

Place them in a paper bag at room temperature, and they will ripen in a few days. The bag traps ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Tell If An Apple Is Ripe

Green apples, like the Granny Smith variety, are ripe when they turn a brighter shade of green and yield slightly under pressure. Additionally, a ripe green apple typically gives off a sweet, tart aroma.

Apples are ready to pick when the color reaches its deepest shade for the specific variety, they have a slightly sweet smell, and they come off the branch easily when you give them a slight twist and upwards pull.

If you pick apples too early, they tend to be hard, overly tart, and may lack their full, mature flavor. Additionally, apples harvested too soon might not store well and could have a shorter shelf life due to insufficient sugar content.


Choosing a ripe apple isn’t rocket science. With the four easy steps above – checking color, feeling for firmness, smelling for a fruity aroma, and tasting for the perfect flavor balance – you’ll pick a winner every time.

Remember, different apple varieties have unique characteristics, so getting to know your favorites will guide your selection.

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