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Are you confident you know how to pick your fruit correctly?

It’s one of the aspects of fruit growing that many people take for granted and don’t think about it. How hard can it be, right?

Gardeners often pay too little attention to this part of the growing cycle, but in fact, it’s one of the 10 steps to ultimate fruit tree care.

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Depending on where you live and what fruit trees you have in your garden, harvest might have already started by mid-spring.

In a normal season at our place, we start picking cherries, loquats, and some of the berries in mid-November. If the season is running a bit early, we might even be eating the first apricots and peaches around the same time.

Switching into harvest mode means it’s time to start paying attention to a few different things, so this blog is to help you refocus your attention.

Katie picking apricots
Katie picking apricots

Getting a good return on your investment by picking fruit correctly

Harvest really is one of the key times of the fruit season. It’s when you convert all the hard work you’ve done the rest of the year into a yield.

The main yield (obviously) is fruit. If you’re aiming to make money from your fruit growing it’s also when you convert your work into the money that will help to sustain your family for the year.

But even if you’re growing on a smaller scale, it’s still really important to get a good return. You need to get something in exchange for the time, care, and love you’ve poured into your fruit trees.

And even though you may not sell your fruit, it may still reap other rewards. It can be converted into different produce by swapping with friends and neighbours, or goodwill by sharing it with family.

"I so love visiting friends with our pickings" (Photo: Trace Bella)
“I so love visiting friends with our pickings” (Photo: Trace Bella)

Guidelines for getting the most from your harvest

  1. Monitor when the fruit is ripe and ready to pick: One of the signals we look for on the farm is waiting until one or two pieces of fruit have fallen because of ripeness. However, it’s also important to taste them! Don’t pick your fruit too early, because it grows in size a lot in the last couple of weeks on the tree. Getting the picking time right is an art, and can take quite a lot of experience to learn. The characteristics to look for are specific to each fruit type.
  2. Don’t pick fruit before it’s mature: fruit picked before it’s mature won’t ripen properly off the tree.
  3. Don’t let the fruit get too ripe: ideally, the fruit should be almost ripe (but not over-ripe). The riper it is, the more carefully you need to pick. Aim to avoid picking injuries that can dramatically reduce the storage life of the fruit.
  4. Pick carefully so you don’t damage the fruit: injuries caused while picking will make fruit go off faster once picked. A rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t be able to hear the fruit being put into the picking container.
  5. Pick up any ripe fruit that has fallen onto the ground: this is one of the basic hygiene practices that can help to keep pests and diseases at bay, as many of them find their perfect habitat in fruit that is rotting on the ground.
  6. Never leave fruit in the sun after picking. Keep the container that you’re picking into in the shade or covered with something to shade it the entire time.
  7. Cool fruit as quickly as possible after picking: this helps fruit to keep for longer and retain freshness.

Post-harvest care starts at the tree

There’s definitely more involved in picking fruit correctly than most people realise.

Too often we see a year’s worth of work wasted by picking fruit too green or over-ripe. And it’s such a disappointment when fruit goes bad within days of being picked just because of poor technique.

A little knowledge and planning can make a huge difference to the outcome of your fruit season!

Picking apricots correctly will avoid picking injuries like this which reduce storage life
Picking apricots correctly will avoid picking injuries like this which reduce storage life

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