Harvest time tips & tricks

Kevin Maryott with McCoard's Farm tells us how to know when fruit is ready to be picked.

General Rules for Harvesting Fruit Trees along the Wasatch Front
Check the timeframe for harvesting the specific genus and variety of fruit with McCoard`s Garden Center, or with the Utah Agricultural Extension Service near you. Once you have this information, during the recommended season use the following method to determine if fruit is viable for harvest.

The fruit will look ripe. Deep and/or vibrant color will be evident without any dull, green undertones (i.e. for fruits that are not supposed to be green when ripe). If a fruit still has green coloring, leave it on the tree for a few more days to ripen. In addition, watch the bird life around the tree; if birds start showing unusually keen interest in the fruit, the chances are, the fruit is ripe!

Fruit is ripe when it has the strong, sweet fruity scent common to its genus. In other words, an apple will smell strongly like and an apple, and a peach will smell strongly like a peach, etc.

There are two general rules to follow for touch. Fruit that is supposed to be firm and not soft such as apples and pears should be firm and have great color. With some geneses/varieties especially pears it is best to pick the fruit a little early and let ripening continue after harvest. By so doing, fruit flavor and texture are ensured to be at their best. Fruit that is supposed to 'give' when ripe such as peaches and apricots will lose their green firmness and will give slightly when gently squeezed. In addition, the seam/suture of the fruit should be soft.

Of course, taste is an important indicator of ripeness. If you are not confident in telling the ripeness of your fruit by sight, smell, or touch, then pick a fruit and take a bite. If it`s still a little crunchy and lacking that juicy sweetness you`d expect, then give the rest of the fruit on the tree more time to ripen. Taste is a little more subjective, but what matters most is that you harvest your peaches when they taste good to you.

Apples and Pears (Late July through early October)
• Apples and Pears separate easily from the tree; the fruit comes off when given a gentle lift and twist.
• Apples should be harvested when firm and bright in final color. Pears should be mature and firm, but are fully ripened off the tree, indoors.
• Another indicator is the color of the seeds in the core. When an apple or pear is ripe, the seeds turn dark brown.
• An under-ripe fruit will taste green or starchy, ripe fruit is sweet and juicy, and overripe fruit is mealy.

Nectarines, Peaches & Apricots (July through September)
• Ripe apricots, nectarines and peaches will have good color and no longer have any green undertones.
• These geneses have a strong sweet aroma when ripe.
• Ripe apricots, nectarines and peaches will lose their green firmness and will 'give' slightly when gently squeezed. Also, gently apply pressure to the seam/suture of the fruit; the seam/suture should be soft when ripe.
• Ripe fruit should be juicy with a sweet and tangy flavor.

Cherries (Early June through July)
• Both sweet and sour cherries are ready to harvest when fully colored. Colors range from bright yellows/reds to deep burgundy depending on variety.
• Cherries will have a pleasant, fruity scent.
• When the fruit is ready, it will be firm.
• Sour cherries will come off the stem when they are ripe enough to be harvested, and taste tangy and tart; sweet cherries should be tasted for maturity and will be very sweet and juicy.
• Harvest sweet cherries with the stem attached if you are not planning on using them right away.
• Cherries will not ripen once removed from the tree.
• Harvest as quickly as possible if rain is imminent, as rain will cause the cherries to split.

Plums (June through Early September)
• Watch for color changes in your plums. A change in color indicates that the fruit is beginning to ripen. However, do not harvest solely based on color.
• Plums give off a pleasant, sweet aroma when ripe.
• Fully ripe plums will feel slightly soft and yield to slight finger pressure. In addition the skin will feel powdery. Pick ripe plums by the stem to prevent bruising. The stem should pull away from the tree branch easily.
• Ripe fruit should be juicy and sweet.

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