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Determining when to harvest fruit from your trees, you must take careful consideration of timing. Harvesting fruit at just the right time is key, not only to obtaining the highest quality fruit but also to maximize the storage life. Ripening periods of all fruit varies from year to year depending on climatic factors such as winds, rainfall, soils and temperature; as does it vary per fruit. For most fruit, determine whether trees are ready for picking by checking the ripeness of a few individual fruits using taste, texture, touch, and visual clues. When you know that you will be harvesting fruit, keep in mind that want to keep conditions as dry as possible to prevent fungal diseases and spoilage of the fruits. Also, be aware of some of the disease that may occur with the varieties of fruit so that you may rid your crop of the diseased fruit as you go.
Each variety of apple has its harvest period and can be dependent upon weather conditions during the growing season. Mature apples are firm, crisp, and juicy with good color and a developed flavor characteristic of the variety. In red varieties, the color is not a good indicator of maturity. Red Delicious, for example, will turn red well before the fruit is ripe. Seed color is not always a reliable indicator either. Most apple varieties have brown seeds when mature, but the seeds may also brown weeks before it is really time to harvest. Premature apple picking may lead to fruit that is sour, starchy and generally unpalatable while harvesting apples too late results in a soft and mushy fruit. To ensure that you are harvesting your apples at the right time you may want to wait for a couple of apples to fall from the tree. Apple trees naturally drop their apples when they are ripe in order to self-seed and reproduce. Watch for an apple or two to drop from the tree to determine if they are ready to pick. To harvest apples, they should be fairly easy to pick from the tree with a simple upward twist of the apple itself. Try to avoid picking an apple by pulling the fruit straight down and tugging. If otherwise healthy fruits begin to fall off the tree, they are probably beginning to get a little too ripe and should probably be harvested as soon as possible.
If you think apples are ready for harvest and there are not apples falling from the tree yet, try the ultimate test of ripeness- the taste test. The flesh should be sweet or tart, depending on the apple variety, and slightly softer but not mushy. Don’t be discouraged if all signs point to harvest time but the apples are not as sweet as they should be. Some types of apples will get sweeter after they are picked and stored for a short while.
Apples that are fully matured are also slightly softer in texture than unripe apples so like peaches, a good way to test a fruit’s ripeness is by giving it a light squeeze between your fingers and thumb. If the apple indents just a little, then it is finished growing. It may take novice gardeners some time before they become proficient with this test, however.
Most apples have the capability of having a long storage period. But you must strategically pack them. Sort through the apple harvest and remove any apples that have insect erosion or signs of disease. Separate the apples by size and use the largest apples first, as they do not store as well as smaller ones. Apples that show signs of damage can be used immediately after cutting off the spoiled bit, either eaten fresh or cooked down. Storing Apples should be stored between 32-33 degrees F. Most cultivars will store for six months at this temperature. Store the apples in baskets or boxes lined with foil or plastic to aid in moisture retention. It’s very important to sort the apples prior to storage. The saying “one bad apple spoils the barrel” is true. Damaged apples give off ethylene more quickly and can literally cause a batch to spoil. You may also want to keep some distance between stored apples and other produce, as the ethylene gas will accelerate the ripening of other fruits and vegetables. If apples are stored in plastic bags, be sure to poke some holes in them so the gas can filter out. Apples are great for pressing for juice, drying, cooking, baking, freezing or canning.
Jujubes vary from round to elongate and from cherry-size to plum-size depending on cultivar. It has a thin, edible skin surrounding whitish flesh of sweet. The immature fruit is green in color, but as it ripens it goes through a yellow-green stage with mahogany-colored spots appearing on the skin as the fruit ripens further. The fully mature fruit is entirely red. Shortly after becoming fully red, the fruit begins to soften and wrinkle. The fruit can be eaten after it becomes wrinkled, but most people prefer them during the interval between the yellow-green stage and the full red stage. At this stage the flesh is crisp and sweet, reminiscent of an apple. Under dry conditions jujubes lose moisture, shrivel and become spongy inside. The crop ripens non-simultaneously, and fruit can be picked for several weeks from a single tree. If picked green, jujubes will not ripen. Ripe fruits may be stored at room temperature for about a week. The fruit may be eaten fresh, dried or candied. Tests in Russia indicate a very high vitamin C content. The fruit has been used medicinally for millennia by many cultures. One of its most popular uses is as a tea for sore throat
Depending on the local climate where medlars are grown, the fruit is either left to ripen on the tree until late October or November. The correct time to harvest is when the fruits part easily from the tree. In fact, if they are picked too early the fruit will shrivel and fail to ripen properly. When harvesting, the fruit should be quite hard and unpalatable. Medlars should be picked in a dry condition and brought indoors and kept in a cool, light place until the fruit begins to wrinkle, soften and become dark brown in appearance. With medlars, the fermentation process must start before they can be consumed, turning the bitter tasting flavor into sweetness, which usually occurs within two or three weeks. An English botanist John Lindley used the term “bletting” to describe this process. The fruit will ripen in succession over a period of several weeks. The taste is of spiced apples and pears and the fragrant fruit can be eaten fresh or cooked. However, the appearance of the ripen fruit has been described as “soft brown pulp resembling that f decayed apples”. Medlars were traditionally eaten with cheese and port wine at the end of a meal.
Harvest your peaches when they are fully ripe. If they are picked before reaching peak ripeness, they may soften but their flavor will not reach its peak flavor. Peaches reach full ripeness when there is no green left on the fruit, with the exception of a few heirloom varieties. Before you pull the fruit off the branch, gently squeeze. Peaches get sweeter and juicier as they ripen so squeezing them will tell you about ripeness. Gently press or squeeze the shoulder and tip (where the stem was) - if it just starts to give, it's ripe and ready to eat. Peaches should come off the tree with only a slight twist. The fruits found on the top and outside of the tree usually ripen first. Be careful when picking your peaches because some varieties bruise very easily. A damaged peach will release ethylene which causes other peaches to over ripen and can ruin an entire crate of fruit, so handle peaches with great care. Peaches have a relatively short shelf life compared to other fruits. They can be stored for approximately 2-4 weeks, after which they are unlikely to be appetizing or safe to eat. You can also store peaches by making jam or by making pickled peaches. Peaches can also be canned or kept frozen for storage.
Unlike apples, most pear varieties do not ripen nicely while still on the tree since pears ripen from the inside out and, by the time they seem to be at the ripe stage, they are beyond it — usually mushy with a mealy texture beneath the skin.
When determining the maturity of a pear, you should consider its size and shape. On the branch is such look like a ripe pear before harvesting. It should still feel very hard to firm and its when its color yellows slightly, it’s ready to pick. When pulling the fruit off the branch, pears when “tilted” to a horizontal position should twist off easily (Bosc is the exception where they are always difficult to twist off from the spur).
After harvest, pears should be wrapped in paper, place in a single layer to ensure no bruising and cooled for a couple of weeks at least. To ripen them, bring the temperature up to 65 to 75 degrees. They should ripen in four to five days for Bartlett, 5-7 days for Bosc and Comice. To test if the pear is ripe, Hold the pear gently but firmly in the palm of your hand and apply the thumb of that same hand to the pear flesh just below the point where the stem joins the fruit. When the flesh beneath your thumb yields evenly to gentle pressure, it is time to eat your pear. If you have to push more than slightly, it is not ready yet.
Pears are consumed fresh, canned, as juice, and dried. The juice can also be used in jellies and jams, usually in combination with other fruits, including berries. Fermented pear juice is called perry or pear cider and is made in a way that is similar to how cider is made from apples.
Asian pears on the contrary should ripen on the tree. They need no after-ripening storage period. Asian pears are ready for harvest when they come away easily from the spur or branch when they are lifted and twisted slightly. When Asian pear’s green skin color starts to change to yellow, they're ripe. Asian pears are eaten fresh as the fruit is crunchy, juicy and not overly sweet. Asian pears are very high in fiber, potassium, Vitamin K, copper and Vitamin C.
In general, there are two types of persimmons - astringent and non-astringent persimmons. Common varietals of astringent persimmons are Hachiya, Saijo, Tamopan and common varietals of non-astringent persimmons are Fuyu and Izu.
Astringent persimmons fully ripened and become soft on the tree is ideal. However, if they sit on the tree to long, birds, deer, raccoons and other animals may get to the trees. Due to the competition for the fruit, harvesting usually happens in the early fall, when the days are still a little warm. Harvest astringent persimmons when they are hard and fully colored. Allow them to fully ripen at room temperature in a protected location. They are ready to eat once they are very soft. Newly picked, unripe, hard astringent persimmons can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a month and can be frozen for up to 8 months.
Non-astringent persimmons are ready to harvest when they have their full, deep color. They are ripe and ready to be eaten when they are picked. Allowing them to soften will help with the taste, but they are ready at harvest time. The non-astringent persimmons can be stored for a short period of time at room temperature. They tend to soften too much if kept in the refrigerator with other fruits.
Harvesting technique is the same for astringent and non- astringent persimmons. To harvest fruit, cut from the tree with hand pruners or a knife, leaving a small stem attached to the fruit. Use a flat, shallow tray to collect them. Unlike fruits that can be stacked, persimmons cannot handle a lot of weight and will bruise easily. If you put too many on top of each other, they will crush the ones on the bottom.
Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When eaten fresh, they are usually eaten whole like an apple in bite-size slices, and may be peeled. One way to consume ripe persimmons, which may have soft texture, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half, and eating from the inside out. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy, and the texture is unique. The flesh is sweet and, when firm owing to being unripe, possesses an apple-like crunch
Harvest season for pomegranates in September for early ripening varieties and continues through October for later ripening cultivars. Fruit will typically ripen about 6-7 months after flowering and will produce on new growth. When harvesting pomegranate fruit, pick when the fruit is fully ripe and a deep red in color since it does not continue to ripe post-harvest. Begin picking pomegranates when the fruit makes a metallic sound when you tap it with your finger and looks heavy for its size. But sure to pick the fruit as it appears to be ripe otherwise, the fruit will split open. If the fruit has split open, the arils will have lost their flavors since the split is a result of fungal pathogens. When you are ready to harvest, cut the fruit from the tree, don’t pull it off. Cut the fruit as close as possible to the branch, taking the stem with the fruit. Fruit does not ripen off the tree. Store pomegranates in the refrigerator for up to 6-7 months. Pomegranates are great for juicing, baking, cooking and eating raw, however the peel is inedible.
Mature quince fruits snap easily from the tree. If you have to tug on the fruit to remove it from the tree, it isn't quite ripe. To harvest, lift the fruit slightly and twist gently until the stem snaps free. Experts say quince harvesting should begin when the fruit changes from dark to light green color and are generally harvested in October and must be protected from frost to store. Most quinces do not ripen on the tree. Instead, they ripen during cool storage. As they ripen, they are highly aromatic and must be kept in isolation or the aromas will taint nearby fruit in storage. A fully ripened quince will be yellow all over and will keep in cool conditions for three months or more. Quince can be eaten raw but it is not as desirable. For best results, cook quince and use in sweet and savory dishes or use as flavoring jellies, pastries and pies.
Almanac, Old Farmer's. “Old Farmer's Almanac.” Old Farmer's Almanac, Yankee Publishing Inc, www.almanac.com/.
Etty, Thomas, and Lorraine Harrison. Heirloom Plants: a Complete Compendium of Heritage Vegetables, Fruit, Herbs & Flowers. Thames & Hudson, 2016.