"Know When the Time is Ripe for Picking Fruits"
Q. You've been very helpful to me at least twice in the past. Perhaps you can help me out again. I have two plum trees and a peach tree. The various gardening books I've come across seem to neglect one very important question: How does one successfully harvest a crop? On my plum trees, I've found that their peak flavor period on the tree lasts scarcely one or two days. Fruit picked before the peak flavor doesn't subsequently improve. The flavor when fresh is a bit too tart to eat. There's a similar, but less serious problem with my peach tree. Is there an optimum time to pick the fruit and how can I determine when it has been reached?
A. Harvesting fruits at the proper time is important to achieve maximum flavor. Each type of fruit has its own harvest period - miss it and the fruit no longer tastes good. On the other hand, harvesting too early does not always ensure ripening, either.
Plums for eating fresh are ready to be picked when they become soft and twist easily off the tree. Plums intended for cooking should be picked when they develop their waxy, white coating and are firm.
Peaches ripen in mid to late summer. The time to pick peaches is when they separate easily from the twigs. Be gentle when harvesting and storing peaches - they bruise easily.
A few other fruits with specific harvest times include pears, cherries, and blueberries.
Unlike most fruits, pears should be picked before they are fully ripened and allowed to ripen off the tree. If they are left on the tree too long, they have an off-flavor, their flesh is soft, and their centers turn brown. Pears are ready to pick when their dark green color begins to turn yellow and when the stem swells where it is attached to the twig. If the twigs break away from the branch rather than the stems separating from the twig, then they are not ready to pick. Once the pears are harvested, store them in a cool location for one to two weeks then place them in a warm, dark location to ripen.
Cherries keep better with the stem attached, so when picking cherries, be sure to leave the stem attached and be careful not to break off the spur from the tree. This is where fruit will be produced next year.
The sweetest blueberries are those that are dark blue, so wait at least a week after the berries turn blue. Any sooner, and the berries will taste sour.
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