Minnesota's apple season is making an early debut at orchards throughout the metro.
Warmer than usual weather last March sped up the season, but a cold stretch in April could mean the crop is a little smaller than usual.
At Minnetonka Orchards in Minnetrista, apple grower Lowell Schaper opened for business August 17, a full week ahead of schedule. It's the earliest season Schaper can remember after more than 35 years in the business.
"The apples are roughly two weeks early," said Schaper. "It's probably the earliest that we've experienced."
A spring season of weather contrasts, from warmer temperatures in March to below freezing in April, has created a mixed bag for apple growers.
Schaper says his crop of SweetTango apples and the Zestar variety are some of the best that his orchard has produced, but the HoneyCrisp crop is down. Schaper attributes the low quantities of HoneyCrisp to the colder snap in April that left some apple blossoms vulnerable to frost.
"We just don't have the numbers of apples on there that we would have on a full crop year," said Schaper. "Some areas in the orchard it got down into the low 20s, it killed a lot of bloom."
The early start to the apple crop means the peak of the season will arrive in September rather than October this year. Apple growers, dependent on strong sales during the short, two month, apple season, are eager to get the message out to customers that orchards are open for business.
Sarah Borchers of Medina brought her young daughter, Ella, out to the orchard Tuesday. The early season fit their schedule just fine.
"Before school starts, it's easy to find time to come out and might as well get a jump on making apple pie," Borchers said with a smile.
Alexandra Renslo reporting
August 21, 2012