You’ve nurtured and cared for your fruit trees all season long and at some point you want to enjoy the “fruits of your labor,” but when exactly can you harvest the fruit? Here are some tips from the experts on figuring out when to begin your harvest and some helpful hints on storing them as well.
ApplesHarvest apples when they are firm, crisp, well-colored, and sweet flavored. Apples harvested too early are sour, starchy, and don’t exactly taste the best. Apples harvested too late are usually soft and mealy. There can be a big difference in maturity times between apple varieties. Some varieties may be ready to pick in summer , while others take until fall – after several frosts- to ripen fully. Red Delicious and Jonathan are examples of fall harvested apples.
Once picked and sorted, store the apples immediately. The temperature and humidity during storage are important for best results.
Apples should be stored at a temperature near 32 F with a high level of humidity in the 90 percent range. Jonathan and Red Delicious may be stored up to 3 to 5 months under these conditions. The storage life of summer apples is only 1 to 3 weeks. Keep in mind that apples can freeze in storage if the temps drop below 30 F.
Harvest apricots when the fruit begins to soften and develop their natural flavor. Be sure to handle carefully to prevent bruising. Fruit should keep for 2 to 3 weeks when stored in a refrigerator.
Pears are a little different than most tree fruits. They should not be allowed to ripen on the tree. If they are left on the tree, stone cells develop in the fruit giving the pear a gritty texture. Tree-ripened fruit won’t be as sweet either. Harvest pears when the color of the fruit changes from a deep green to yellow green. The fruit will still be firm, not soft, at harvest. Ripen them indoors at a temperature of 60 to 70 F. This process will take 7 to 10 days .If you want to speed things up, put them in a tightly sealed plastic bag. To keep the pears even longer, refrigerate the unripened pears at a temperature of 30 to 35 F. Pears may be stored for approximately 1 to 3 months.
A good sign that plums are ready to harvest is their color. The fruit of blue or purple varieties change from green to greenish-blue, then to dark blue or purple. The ripened fruit color of other varieties vary from yellow to red. Sometimes color isn’t always the best indicator and you just might need to pick one or two and give it the good old taste test! Plums can be stored for approximately 2 to 4 weeks at temperatures in the 30s.
PeachesThe best way to know if a peach is ready to harvest is by simply using your senses.
- Smell: A peach ready to pick gives off an enticing sweet aroma that will engulf the area around the tree.
- Touch: Ripe peaches will lose their green firmness and they will “give” slightly when gently squeezed. You can test the firmness of a ripe peach while it is still on the tree. If the peaches are still hard when you squeeze them, they need more time to ripen on the tree. Check back in a few days.
- Sight: A ripe peach will have some color and, most importantly, it will no longer have any green undertones. If a peach still has a greenish hint to its skin color, leave it on the tree for a few more days to ripen.
- Taste: Of course, taste is the most important factor to indicate ripeness. If it’s still a little crunchy and lacking that juicy sweetness you’d expect from a peach, then give the rest of the fruit some more time to ripen. Taste is a little more subjective, but what matters most is that it tasted good to you.
If you need to pick some peaches early and want them to ripen indoors, try placing them in a brown paper bag on kitchen counter. After a few days they will be ready.
Ripe peaches can simply be stored in a refrigerator. The cold will radically slow down their off-tree ripening talents. Check chilled peaches frequently; the cold air in the refrigerator is dehydrating, so watch out for any wrinkly skin, a sign of both drying and over-ripening. It’s also best not to allow them to touch each other.
Now that you’ve harvested, learn about when and how to prune your fruit trees.