What you see: Rough brown skin forming a thick band that partially or entirely encircles the fruit. The apple is probably shaped a bit oddly too.
What it is: Frost ring, which occurs after there’s a freeze when apples are in bloom
Eat or toss: Eat!
“Frost ring” occurs early in an apple’s life, when apple trees are blooming and teeny tiny apples are just starting to grow. Below-freezing temperatures damage the apple's outer skin, which then loses its elasticity.
So, as the apple grows, cracks develop between those damaged skill cells, causing the exposed cells underneath to die. Then, brown wound-healing tissue arrives on the scene. Unlike people, plants can’t regenerate skin to look “like new” after an injury, so the patched-up area grows as the apple grows, leaving us with a somewhat dramatic band of corky brown skin on the apple.
But the apple is certainly still edible. That brown tissue is no different from the rough brown skin you find around the stems of many apples, which we wrote about in an earlier post. If it bothers you, you can peel it off, but feel free to bite into the freeze-nipped areas.
So, if you see apples sporting a frost ring at the orchard or the farmers market, don’t reject them! They still make for good eating. But you’re unlikely to see them at a grocery store as they don’t meet aesthetic standards. These apples are often used for making juice.
Special thanks to Dr. Macarena Farcuh at the University of Maryland for providing the photo and helping with this post!
Dr. Macarena Farcuh, PhD. Assistant professor in horticulture. College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. University of Maryland.
Frost Rings in Apple Fruits. Macarena Farcuh. Vegetable & Fruit News. Volume 11 Issue 5 August 13, 2020. University of Maryland Extension Agriculture and Food Systems and Environment and Natural Resources Focus Teams.
Frost Ring on Apples. Debbie Roos. North Carolina State Extension.
Did you hear about Jack Frost and the apple? He put a ring on it.