One of my most asked questions is “How do I know when apples/plums/ pears are ripe?” I remember wondering that too. The realization that harvesting required as much knowledge as growing, dawned the day I harvested a whole tree of apples in a rush of excitement because they were red. What a let-down when I bit into one … sour … duh! They weren’t ripe yet.
Make A Harvest Calendar
Step one, my friends, is to have your eye on a ready date. This is my southern hemisphere apple harvest chart.
A harvest calendar is super useful. It has you ready for when the apples are. In a perfect world you make this up at the planning stage. Choosing varieties that suit your place and your needs and spread the harvest through the year. This disperses your workload, takes the pressure off storage and brings a beautiful steady supply to your kitchen table.
Put romantic notions of harvesting basket loads of fruit aside — processing a tree load of fruit is a good sized mission!
Go to the sunny side of the tree (bathed in sunlight = first ones ready) and choose a ripe looking apple. Cup it in your hand and lift it up or sideways. If it’s perfectly ready it’ll separate easily from the tree with a lift —no pulling required! Pulling can take off next years spurs and if you have to yank the apple off — it’s not ready to leave home.
Now slice your tester apple in half and check the pips out – brown pips = apples are ready. If the flesh turns brown – they’re not ready either. Finally sink your teeth into it … mmhmm … surely the best indicator of all.
Things Not To Do
- Pull your fruit off (and next years fruit spurs too)
- Toss your fruit into the basket (bruises — ouch!)
- Wait till your apples drop — most varieties will be overcooked by this time. Aim to harvest them while they are crisp and juicy from the tree.
- Harvest all your fruit just because one is ready. The joy of being a home gardener is that we can harvest as the fruit is ready. The ones in the sunlight and around the edges will be ready first. Those in the shade following along after.
Take a moment to sort your fruits. The bird pecked, black spotted, stalk-less and damaged into one crate – these will need to be eaten first or preserved. The perfect ones are for storage.