August 1, 2017 we collected our first fruit samples for assessments of the maturity of Premier Honeycrisp, Honeycrisp, Buckeye Gala, and Ultima Gala.

Premier Honeycrisp and Honeycrisp apples were sampled in two similar blocks located at about 1200 feet elevation in Adams County orchards. Fruits were spot-picked on size and color, just as good pickers would be trained to do. While there was not adequate red color yet, starch testing showed some tree ripening had already begun.

When we measured ground color and hidden attributes like firmness, soluble solids, and starch pattern, Premier Honeycrisp appeared to be two weeks ahead of the Galas sampled. While the spot-picked samples of the red Gala strains had adequate red color for US Fancy, they were quite firm and low in soluble solids.

In this initial sampling we noted the Premier Honeycrisp fruit had already lost starch in the core region. Buckeye Gala and Ultima Gala fruit were also losing starch in the core, while Honeycrisp still retained all its starch.

While the difference between Premier and standard Honeycrisp was expected, finding any starch loss in the first week of August was not. With an early bloom, many people have been expecting an earlier harvest this year. This initial week's sample certainly underscores the need to be ready for harvest sooner, rather than later in 2017. To paraphrase Yogi Berra's comment about playing the outfield at Yankee Stadium, "It's getting late early out there."

Gala harvest typically begins about the third week in August. This will put these smaller Gala fruit between Premier Honeycrisp and Honeycrisp. While many growers delay Gala picking to take advantage of early-season Honeycrisp prices, that delay frequently leads to soft Gala apples going into storage.

These fruit were all grown at 1200 feet elevation on Bear Mountain. As expected, the Galas were smaller, but had much more red color. (See photos of all four cultivars below).

Here are summary data from this first week's sampling:

CultivarDiameter (inches)Red color %Ground color
Premier Honeycrisp 2.9 15 3.8
Honeycrisp 3 5 3
Buckeye Gala 2.6 50 4.2
Ultima Gala 2.7 70 5

week 1 phc hc

Premier Honeycrisp (left) and Honeycrisp (right) fruit spot-picked on August 1, 2017. Photo: Kathleen W. Hunt, University of Maryland

week 1 galas

Buckeye Gala (left) and Ultima Gala (right) fruit spot-picked on August 1, 2017. Photo: Kathleen W. Hunt, University of Maryland

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