Apples are one of the most popular fruits, known for their sweet, crunchy taste and versatility in recipes. Many people buy apples in bulk when they are in season, hoping to enjoy them for weeks or months after purchase. However, fresh apples don’t last forever and will eventually go bad.
So how long do apples last? And what are the signs that an apple has gone bad? Keep reading to learn more about apple shelf life, proper apple storage, and how to tell if your apples are still good to eat.
How Long Do Apples Last?
The shelf life of apples depends on a few factors:
- Apple type – Some apple varieties last longer than others. For example, Fuji or Honeycrisp apples can last over 2 months with proper storage, while Gala or McIntosh apples may only last 1-2 weeks.
- Storage conditions – Apples stored in cool, dark places will last longer than apples left on the counter.
- Freshness – Just-picked apples last longer than store-bought apples, which are often already a few weeks old.
On average, store-bought apples can last:
- Counter: 7-10 days
- Fridge: 1-2 months
- Freezer: 8-10 months
The fridge is the best place to store apples if you want them to have the longest shelf life. The cool temperature slows down the ripening process. Just make sure not to store apples near foods with strong odors, as they can absorb unpleasant smells.
Do Refrigerated Apples Last Longer Than Room Temperature Apples?
Yes, refrigerated apples last significantly longer than apples left at room temperature. The cool environment of the refrigerator slows down ripening and deterioration.
Room temperature apples will only last about 1-2 weeks before going bad. Refrigerated apples can stay fresh for 1-2 months if stored properly in the crisper drawer. The fridge temperature between 32°F-40°F (0°C-4°C) prevents apples from over-ripening and developing mold.
For maximum freshness, store apples in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which is usually the bottom crisper drawer. Just don’t let apples get frozen, as the cold damage will speed up spoilage once they thaw.
How to Store Apples to Make Them Last
Follow these tips for storing apples properly to extend their shelf life:
- Keep apples in the fridge crisper drawer, which has higher humidity than the rest of the refrigerator. The moisture helps maintain apple crispness.
- Store different apple varieties separately, as some ripen faster and may cause others to deteriorate quicker.
- Place apples in a perforated plastic bag before refrigerating, which protects them while still allowing air flow.
- Wash apples just before eating. Getting them wet can encourage mold growth during storage.
- Avoid storing apples near foods with strong odors like cheese, onions, or garlic, as they will absorb the smells.
- Handle apples gently to avoid bruising, which speeds up spoilage.
With proper refrigeration and minimal handling, most apples will stay fresh and crunchy for 1-2 months before going bad.
What is the Best Way to Store Cut Apples?
Once an apple is cut, the flesh will quickly start to oxidize and turn brown when exposed to air. Here are some tips for storing cut apples to maintain freshness:
- Keep cut apples refrigerated, as warmer temperatures will make them deteriorate faster.
- Coat exposed surfaces with lemon juice, which is acidic and slows oxidation.
- Immerse cut apples in water, which prevents browning but can make them waterlogged.
- Store in an airtight container to protect them from oxygen.
- Place in a paper bag, which allows some air flow while trapping ethylene gas that speeds ripening.
Cut apples should be eaten within 1-2 days for best quality. Discard any pieces that have turned brown or smell bad.
How to Tell if Apples Have Gone Bad
Check apples frequently for signs of spoilage. Here are ways to tell if apples have gone bad:
- Soft spots or wrinkled skin – Fresh apples feel firm with smooth, tight skin. Soft, wrinkled patches indicate moisture loss and decay.
- Brown or moldy spots – Whitish-gray fuzz is a sign of mold starting to grow. Cut away any affected areas immediately.
- Slimy texture – A slippery, slimy feel means bacteria or yeasts are breaking down the apples.
- Off odors – Rotten apples give off fermented, vinegar-like smells from high microbial activity.
- Dry, mealy flesh – Apples normally are juicy and crunchy. Dry, crumbly texture shows they have lost moisture.
If an apple develops any of these qualities, it has gone bad and should be thrown out. One spoiled apple can cause neighboring apples to deteriorate faster, so promptly remove bad apples from storage.
What Does a Rotten Apple Look Like Inside?
A rotten apple usually has significant internal damage long before external signs appear. Here are the internal signs of spoilage in apples:
- Brown, mushy flesh – Healthy apple flesh is pale cream colored and crisp. As apples go bad, the flesh softens and oxidizes to an unappealing brown.
- Mold growth – Fuzzy grayish mold becomes visible on the apple’s internal structures and seeds as moisture increases.
- Fermented odor – The inside of a spoiled apple gives off a strong, unpleasantly sweet smell from high microbial activity.
- Swollen seeds – The seeds darken and swell up as the apple rots due to cell breakdown.
By the time an apple shows these internal signs of spoilage, it is well past edible and should not be consumed.
How to Ripen Apples Faster
Apples will continue to ripen after being picked, but there are some things you can do to speed up the ripening process if your apples are still very firm:
- Leave apples at room temperature. The warmth encourages the ripening enzymes to work faster.
- Place apples in a paper bag closed with a fold or clip. This traps the ethylene gas they produce, accelerating ripening.
- Store apples with bananas, tomatoes, or other fruits. They naturally emit ethylene which can hasten apple ripening.
- Press gently on the apple flesh to bruise it slightly. Injuring the cells speeds up chemical changes.
However, note that faster ripening means a shorter shelf life. If you want your apples to last, store them in the fridge unbruised.
What Causes Apples to Ripen Faster?
These factors contribute to faster apple ripening:
- Harvest time – Early season apple varieties ripen quicker and don’t store as long as late season apples.
- Ethylene – This gaseous plant hormone regulates ripening. Apples produce more ethylene as they mature, accelerating the process.
- Temperature – Warm rooms speed up apple ripening. Cool fridge temperatures slow it down.
- Bruising – Any injury damages cells, making apples over-ripen and deteriorate around the damaged site.
- Other ripe fruits – Fruits emitting ethylene and moisture hasten ripening of nearby apples.
To slow down apple ripening, store apples alone in the fridge soon after bringing them home from the store.
On average, apples will last about 1-2 weeks on the counter, 1-2 months in the fridge, and 8-10 months in the freezer. Storing apples properly in the crisper drawer helps extend their shelf life. Signs that apples have gone bad include soft wrinkled skin, brown spots, slimy texture, fermented odors, and dry mealy flesh. Rotten apples should be discarded immediately to prevent accelerating decay of healthy apples nearby. While you can ripen firm apples faster at room temperature, this also shortens how long they will last compared to refrigerated apples. With proper apple storage and handling, you can enjoy apples for their sweet crunchiness long after purchasing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do apples last at room temperature?
At room temperature, apples will last around 1-2 weeks before starting to go bad from moisture loss and microbial decay. For maximum freshness, refrigerate apples instead of leaving them on the counter.
Can you eat apples that are a little bit brown?
It’s best to avoid apples that have turned brown or soft. A little surface browning won’t make apples unsafe, but it indicates the flesh underneath has likely started to deteriorate, so the texture and flavor will suffer.
What happens if you eat a rotten apple?
Rotten apples may grow harmful molds that can cause allergic reactions or stomach upset if eaten. Intact apples don’t often harbor dangerous bacteria internally, but it’s still advisable not to eat them if signs of spoilage are present.
Do old apples make you sick?
Apples that have deeply decayed or show fungal growth may contain mycotoxins and microbiological contaminants that can cause illness if enough rotten apple is consumed. Fresh apples have compounds that inhibit bacteria, but these diminish as the apples deteriorate.
Can moldy apples make you sick?
Yes, apples covered in mold growth have a higher chance of containing mycotoxins and bacteria that may lead to health issues. Certain molds like Penicillium expansum also produce patulin, a mycotoxin that can cause vomiting, nausea, and neurological effects if ingested.
Nutrition Facts of Apples
Here is the nutritional content of a medium apple (182g):
Apples are fat-free, sodium-free, and high in fiber and vitamin C. The antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber make them a nutritious fruit choice.
Tips for Using Up Old Apples
If you have apples that are past their prime, there are still ways to use them up:
- Make applesauce – Cook down bad apples into a pureed sauce.
- Juice apples – Use a juicer or blender to make fresh apple juice.
- Bake apple desserts – Old apples work great in crisps, pies, and cakes.
- Dehydrate for snacks – Dried apple rings or chips remove moisture to preserve.
- Puree for baby food – Cooked down apples are easy for babies to digest.
With some creativity in the kitchen, you can rescue apples that have started to go mealy or soft. Avoid apples that smell bad or have visible mold, which can make you sick.