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Questions & Answers.

Here you find the most asked questions about apples and being organic. But if you still can’t get the answer you want, just let us know: karin.langes@biosuedtirol.com.

APPLES

Which apple variety is best for preparing apple strudel?

Technically, any apple variety works well for the typical South Tyrolean apple strudel – slightly acidic varieties (Topaz, Bonita, Braeburn) provide a more acidic note in the strudel, sweet varieties make the strudel sweeter (Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala).

Which apple variety is best for preparing food when starting to wean infants?

Any sweet apple is ideal, for example, Fuji or Golden Delicious, but also Kanzi and Braeburn. Some nutrition experts recommend Granny Smith as it contains less sugar, others recommend other varieties.

What apples do you use to make Biosüdtirol apple juice?

We use the following 3 varieties: Braeburn, Fuji and Pinova.

What gives the apples their typical colours?

The colour of the apples depends on the variety. For example, Granny Smith is always green, Golden Delicious is always yellow with slightly red cheeks. The South Tyrol’s unusual climate, with its sunny days and cool nights, also plays an important role in the development of the apples’ colouring.

Do apples continue to ripen after they’ve been harvested, like bananas, which are often picked while they’re still unripe?

Apples are harvested when they reach ‘plucking maturity’. That is the optimum point of ripeness for storing, transportation and sale before reaching the consumer at the point of perfect ripeness for eating. However, apples also produce the hormone ethylene which means that they continue ripening at home.

CULTIVATION, HARVEST, STORAGE & SALE

Is it possible to grow organic apples in an apple meadow that is situated next to a conventional apple meadow?

It is possible to grow organic apples next to a conventional apple meadow. Regular residue analyses make this possible. Before harvesting, the organic apples growing in the rows of trees on the margins of the meadow are tested for residues. If the tests show positive results for substances that are not permitted in organic cultivation, then these apples are sold as conventional apples. The analyses are repeated in the next rows. This continues until a row exhibits no residue substances and these apples can then be sold as organic apples.

Are the apples sold by Biosüdtirol also grown by Biosüdtirol?

Each and every apple sold comes from one of the 200 organic farmers who comprise Bio Südtirol.

I’ve heard that a hail net will also protect the apples from too much sun. Is that true?

The main task of the hail net is of course to protect the apples from hail, which can damage them. However, it also protects them from too much sun, which can leave ugly traces. Plus, the net also protects the apples from harmful insects.

Are plant protection products used in organic farming?

Organic farming doesn’t cut out plant protection products completely. However, instead of synthetic chemical plant protection products, organic farming employs only nature-identical substances. These are substances that also occur in nature in their pure form, for example, copper and sulphur.

How are apples harvested?

Apples are picked by hand from the apple trees. Usually the farmer himself takes care of that, with the help of his family and harvest helpers. The harvest period lasts from the end of July to the end of November – depending on the variety of apple. There are early varieties, such as Summer Red or Gala, which are harvested at the end of July or early to mid-August, and there are late varieties, such as Pink Lady, which is only ripe at the end of November.

How do I recognise an organic meadow or an organic apple?

It is almost impossible to tell the difference between an organic apple and a conventional apple. There are a few features of a meadow that are particularly important, especially to an organic farmer.

· Hedges and cairns as habitats for beneficial insects: These beneficial insects help keep pest populations under control and minimise the need for plant protection products in the organic field.

· Soil fertility is a vital issue: The farmer feeds the ground with high quality composts, which add humus to the soil, and sows wild flowers so that their roots grow deep into the soil and aerate it; plant diversity in the lanes helps unlock a variety of nutrients and makes them available to the soil.

· Avoiding the use of herbicides, which is why there are no visible herbicide strips beneath the trees.

How are organic apples stored in the cooperative?

In contrast to conventional apple cultivation, organic farming does not use any chemicals to keep the apples “young” and storable for longer. Apples that have been harvested in the autumn can be treated with a special storage technique and stored until May or June. This storage method has been used for decades and allows longer storage times. The natural nitrogen content in the air is increased using special equipment, thereby removing oxygen from the rooms. The lower the oxygen level sinks, the more the fruits’ metabolism is slowed. This means the apple breathes more slowly and so the ripening process in the apple also slows down. In this way we can store the apples for a relatively long time.

What happens with the apples that are often only slightly damaged but can’t be sold as whole fruit for eating?

Those fruits can be used for products such as baby food, apple purée, apple rings, chocolate and apple confectionery, apple juice and even apple leather.

Where can I buy Biosüdtirol apples?

Discover it with one click.

PACKAGING & TRANSPORT

Does the packaging for the apples also conform to organic standards?

We’re working hard on that. For our apple packs we use grass paper, which is made and produced in a pretty interesting way (link to grass paper article). However, the apple packs are wrapped in plastic. We’re currently looking for a sustainable alternative to this. The same applies to the large-scale packaging, which is currently made of conventional cardboard.

Are Biosüdtirol apples transported in a sustainable way?

Biosüdtirol apples are transported conventionally by lorry and sometimes also by ship.

ENJOYMENT

How should I store an apple at home?

The best thing to do at home is to store them in a cellar at a constant temperature. Alternatively, apples can also be stored in the fridge, but you should take them out a couple of hours before you intend to eat them so that they can be enjoyed at room temperature.

Do I have to peel an apple before I eat it?

No, not at all. You can eat an apple with its peel – the apple skin contains the majority of the vitamins in the apples. But you should wash apples before you eat them.

What’s the right way to cut an apple?

First off: An apple is best eaten with the peel, because that’s where most of the vitamins are. So, wash the apple, cut it through the middle into two halves, then cut the halves in two and then slice the quarters in half again. Now cut out the bits of core from the slices and the pieces of apple are ready for eating.

ORGANIC

Is organic generally healthier?

Organic farming is more sustainable and puts less stress on the environment than conventional farming. However, the question of whether organic fruit and vegetables are also healthier has not been adequately researched. Organic farming appears to increase the level of antioxidants and micro-nutrients in plants and to decrease the pesticide load in them. No independent study has yet confirmed whether food from organically cultivated fruit and vegetables noticeably improves health in humans.

Organic apples are much more expensive than conventionally grown apples.

Price comparisons between conventionally grown apples and organic apples are heavily dependent on the variety. Some varieties only have a very small price difference in price, but other varieties may be 50% more expensive. The reason for this is the additional costs incurred by the farmers and the higher (and more expensive) standards that must be met in production. Moreover, organic cultivation produces a significantly higher industrial share (20-30% compared to 5% of conventionally cultivated apples) – imperfect, slightly damaged fruits are used to make, for example, apple juice. The farmer receives a much lower price for product used for processing.

Are organic apples smaller/less perfect than conventional apples?

Organic apples are generally smaller than conventionally grown apples. One reason for that is that, in comparison to conventional farming, only a limited number of methods are available for blossom thinning, which is necessary to ensure a certain size and quality of apple. That makes thinning more difficult and so generally there are more apples left on the tree, which leads to a smaller fruit size. Furthermore, organic farming cannot use any synthetic fertilisers to encourage the fruits to grow artificially. In terms of physiological damage to the apple itself, the situation is similar. Because fewer substances are available to the organic farmer, organic apples are more susceptible and that can result in slight damage to the skin of the fruit.

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