Thanks to a frost-free spring, above-normal rainfall and cooler temperatures in August and September, Kentucky growers have a bumper crop of high-quality apples this year, says John Strang, University of Kentucky horticulture specialist in Lexington.

"We've got a 100-percent crop or better of a normal apple crop," Strang says. "With the rainfall we've had, they have sized up really well. And with the cool temperatures, this is the best color I've seen in a long time."

The state's growers are known for producing premium tasting apples because they allow the apples to ripen on the trees. Most do not irrigate their fruit, which can dilute flavor components.

"I will admit that it is harder to grow the perfect-looking apple in Kentucky," Strang says. "Our high humidity contributes to fruit russeting (rough skin appearance), and our higher summer and fall temperatures usually reduce red coloration. But on the other hand, what are you after? An apple that looks good in a fruit bowl or one that snaps when you bite into it, explodes with juice, has an outstanding flavor and makes you feel like you can't wait to take another bite?"

Kentucky's apple producers grow several varieties, including such consumer favorites as red delicious, golden delicious, Jonathan, Rome and Fuji. But they also produce many varieties that consumers won't typically find in the supermarket. They include Honeycrisp, a new variety that is juicy and crispy, and GoldRush, a tart, firm apple that sweetens up in storage.

Most of Kentucky's apple crop is sold at the retail level, such as at farm stands and other farmers' markets. Unlike in Michigan, New York and Pacific Northwest states, Kentucky growers do very little wholesale production.