If you grow organic or low-spray apples, especially heirlooms, and especially anywhere east of the Rockies, chances are you are going to experience two diseases, sooty blotch and fly speck, which can make your apples pretty unsightly. Here’s a really nice sized fruit of ‘Winter Banana’ I picked just today.
Now, no matter how much I tell you that this was once one of the most popular gift apples as it had something of the smell and flavor of bananas at a time when tropical winter produce wasn’t available, you’re going to look at this apple and say “Who cares? I’m not eating that” Sooty blotch, the culprit here, is a harmless fungus that lives in the wax of the apples’ skin. It in no way affects the flavor or discolors the flesh. It’s simply ugly.
So what to do? Well I searched over the internet, and strangely there seemed very few practical solutions, other than spraying fungicides, pruning the tree to open the branching structure, and some proverbial praying for dry weather to dampen the spread of the fungus, none of which help you once the fruit is discolored. Then I came across an obscure industry paper that recommended using household bleach in large commercial orchard applications, and sure enough. I took a bushel of sooty apples, filled my outdoor potting sink to capacity (about 10 gallons), and dumped the apples in with a cup full of regular bleach. Twenty minutes later: voila!:
My intention was to scrub the apples, but I was called away to the phone, and when a half hour later I returned, to my surprise all the surfaces under the water were perfectly clean; just the floating upsides were still sooty. That answer to that was simple: either manually rotate the apples, or use a large flat board the size of the sink basin to press the apples entirely into the water. After another twenty minutes with bottom sides up, I transferred the apples to the twin basin filled with fresh water, and let the apples bob around to rinse thoroughly. (You can use a green pot scrubber to speed up the process if you so wish, but given time, the bleach does in fact do all the work for you. And yes the apples come out smelling like apples, not bleach, as the apples’ natural waxy coating prevents any absorption.) The result is an almost miraculous transformation, which, given a large enough sink, can be effected by the bushelful. I should add by the way, that this rather thorough cleaning will also remove any remaining pesticide residue if you do do some limited spraying, and has the added advantage of slightly extending apple life by removing harmful bacteria from the apple skin.