The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reports apple season is in full swing. Since 1888, the University of Minnesota has come up with close to 30 new apple varieties. Some of these are among the varieties now ready for picking. They include the Zestar, introduced in 1999, the SweeTango, introduced in 2008, and the Sweet Sixteen, which was introduced in 1977. Also old standbys like Honeycrisp and Cortlands are available for picking.

Other Minnesota varieties that either are ready or just days away from being ready include Haralson, Regent, McIntosh and Honeygolds.

This year's apple crop is expected to be just a bit smaller than average. The 2016 growing season weather resulted in some crop loss.

It's recommended that you avoid bruised or soft apples. Store them in your refrigerator.

I spend a good chunk of the summer running a couple of food dehydrators in the shed around the clock. I gather up whatever apples I can get and dehydrate them into horse treats. They're crazy about them and provide a different taste from the same old hay and grain in the winter.

The Minnesota Grown website has a free guide to apple orchards around the state. You may also call (888) TOURISM to get your free guide.