Picking and Handling Fruit Crops from Your Garden

 

The picking and subsequent storage of fruit must surely be the most important part of the year Having slaved for the previous twelve months to ensure that you have a worthwhile crop, here you are at last, at the moment of truth, when all your hopes are realised. That is, provided that you do the right thing at the right time.

 

Picking Fruit Crops

How easy it would be in a surge of enthusiasm to ruin all the hard work by picking the fruit too early or, unlikely, too late.

Fortunately, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and bush fruits (with the exception of gooseberries) give a clear indication of when they are ready for picking by changing colour to whatever they should be when mature.

With gooseberries, much depends on whether you want them for dessert or cooking. For cooking they are picked green at about the end of June. For dessert, they are left for another month or so until they go red or yellow, according to the variety. May Duke and Whinham’s Industry are the leading red varieties; Laxton’s Amber Leveller and New Giant are yellow and most others are green.

'Fantasia' blackberriesA certain amount of confusion can exist amongst cane fruit because the hybrids tend to vary from dark pink to black when ripe. The tummelberry, for example, is raspberry coloured when ripe; loganberries and tayberries are somewhat darker; the boysenberry is very dark purple and the sunberry almost black. None should be picked until they have attained these colours because ripening after picking is seldom a success.

Although all kinds of fruit tend to ripen in sequence,true cooking gooseberries (for example Careless and lnvicta) are normally cleared in a single picking. Much the same applies to red and black currants.

Early-ripening varieties of eating apple should be picked selectively so that they ripen on the tree. Those wanted for storing can be picked all at once later on.

Cooking apples are usually picked as they are needed, except those which you intend to store which are cleared at one picking. If any apples are still on the trees in the second half of October, they should be picked and stored.

Dessert pears are slightly harder to judge than apples, but are definitely better if picked when still hard and then ripened indoors. Cooking pears are picked and cooked when still hard.

Gages and dessert plums are normally picked over several times as they ripen; they don’t ripen well after picking. When intended for cooking, though, plums are normally picked more severely as they are best when picked slightly under-ripe.

Peaches are best picked when ready for eating, but they will ripen quite well if immature ones are put on a sunny window sill.

Anyone extending into the realms of grapes and figs should leave figs until they are ripe, but grapes will ripen well after picking; though, frankly, there is little point in picking them early unless they are outdoors and spoiling.

The actual picking of most fruits is straightforward enough and most will part quite readily from the plant when they are fit.

When apples and pears are ready for picking, they part quite easily from the tree. In fact, the way to establish their readiness is to see how easy they are to pick. Lift the fruit and give it a slight twist. If it parts without any trouble, then that is as it should be. If you have to struggle with it, then wait a few days and try again. On the other hand, if it drops off the moment you touch it, then you have probably left it too long. Bear these points in mind when picking over the trees selectively. As already mentioned, apples and pears intended for storage are usually cleared at one picking.

 

Handling Fruit

When picking fruit, treat it all gently and carefully. Any damage that occurs will shorten the useful storage life.

If cane fruits, currants and strawberries are treated roughly, they will soon become infected with moulds and be useless.

Even more important is the way you handle apples and pears that are intended for storage. Any damage that occurs to them at any time before, during and after picking will ruin them for storage. This damage can be caused by a number of things. Pests, diseases, birds, wasps, rubbing and bruising are just some of the more obvious ones pre-harvest.

handling fruit - fruit pickingHowever, probably the greatest problems arise during picking itself when bruising and skin injuries are commonplace if picking is carried out carelessly. Every care must be taken not to damage the fruits in any way. Treat them like eggs. Do not drop them into a bucket from the top of a ladder to save time; it saves nothing. Nowadays there are several picking aids that can be bought, but, to be quite honest, most are rather expensive for what they do and can usually be made at home without too much difficulty.

The main slant seems to be towards gadgets on the end of poles that can be raised up into tall trees to pick single fruits. These are mainly applicable to apples and pears, but there should be no reason why they cannot be used for plums as well. It is probably asking a bit too much to expect them to cope with cherries.

Another product works on the same principle but has a tubular canvas, or similar, chute attached so that the picked fruit rolls down the tube to the picker. This has the advantage of the picker not having to lower the gadget after picking three or four apples to empty the small canvas bag on the end of the pole.

When simply using a bucket or basket to pick fruit into, a bucket is much better as the inside of most shopping baskets are very knobbly and are much more likely to damage the fruit than the smooth surface of the bucket. In either event, it helps to line the container with a plastic bag so that, when full, this is lifted out and gently emptied by placing it in the box or whatever, simply removing the bag by pulling it out from under the fruits.

If you have a lot of tree fruits to pick, it would be well worthwhile investing in a proper fruit-picking bag. This is slung over the shoulder on a canvas strap and can then be swung round behind you when you are climbing up and down ladders. When picking from the ground, the bag would be in front of you.

These proper picking bags have a rigid top that stays open and a canvas body. This is open at the base which is folded up and held in place by two hooks on the upper rigid rim when you are picking. To empty it, stand the basket in the box and slip the two hooks off the rim so that the fruit gently flows out through the bottom when the bag is lifted. If done slowly, damage to the fruit is completely avoided.

14. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Fruit Trees | Tags: , | Comments Off on Picking and Handling Fruit Crops from Your Garden

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