By Megan McKnight with USAG Bavaria Environmental Division
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Throughout September, the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division celebrates the apple harvest season during a series of events called, “Apple Days.” The organization encourages community members to take this opportunity to learn more about apples and the trees on which they grow.
Apple trees (Malus domestica), or Apfelbaum in German, are grown worldwide and prized for their variety of flavors, high yields and ability to be stored for extended periods of time.
Apple trees are deciduous trees, and the simple oval leaves are dark green. The trees lose leaves in the fall, buds in early spring and blooms in early summer. Most apple trees are self-incompatible and must be cross pollinated; furthermore, they will not produce fruit if pollinated from a flower of the same tree or even the same cultivar of tree. Pollination is facilitated by pollinators such as honeybees, solitary bees, bumble bees and orchard bees. Upon successful pollination, the tree bears fruit that can be harvested in the late summer and fall.
Worldwide there are over 7,500 different varieties of apples. Common varieties found in grocery stores — red or golden delicious — dominate commercial growing. Efforts to preserve noncommercial or heritage varieties — the varieties found within the orchards at the Grafenwöhr Training Area (GTA) and Netzaberg — have been on the rise.
The GTA orchards house varieties that are still widespread throughout Germany, such as the King of the Pippins and the Bonapfel, as well as types that are rare in Germany, such as the Kleiner Herrenapfel and the Muskat Reinette. Also grown are other types of apples, whose existence outside of the GTA are unknown, including the Orangeroter Sternapfel and the Pale Perfume Apple.
Community members are allowed to harvest fruit grown within GTA for personal consumption. If you are unsure about protocol, please contact the Environmental Division. Fruit should only be harvested when ripe and when it can be easily removed from the tree. Take care not to damage the trees, as removing leaves and breaking branches is prohibited. Do not climb trees to harvest out of reach fruit, because this can damage the tree; instead, employ the use of a fruit picking tool.
Check out the Environmental Division’s Apple Days video series at facebook.com/USAGEnvironmental to learn more. If you would like to explore the orchard on Tower Barracks, contact the Environmental Division for an Apple Days Activity Pack.