Harvesting Apples and Pears

Friday, September 26th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Mums are the beauties of the fall garden. Choose plants now in a wide variety of colors.
    • Pansies and snapdragons can be planted now to replace summer annuals. They will give you color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.
    • Trim foliage on grape vines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and ripen the grapes.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than four years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.

Harvesting Apples and Pears

Most of the luscious fruits of summer have been picked and enjoyed by now. But apples and pears are just coming on and will be sharing their bounty in the months to come.

Apples are one of the easiest fruit to pick and use. Once they are picked, apples stop ripening, so it is important to pick them at the peak or ripeness. Apples ripen from the outside of the tree towards the center, so the apples out the outside of the tree will ripen first. Apples on the sunny side, usually the southern side, of the tree ripen first.

You should know approximately when a particular variety is expected to ripen. There are charts that give you this information for a particular area, usually the Central Valley in California. In Willits, fruits ripen approximately a month later than in the Central Valley. So that’s the first thing to consider.

Color can also be an indication of maturity. With yellow apples, when the green has almost completely given way to yellow, a yellow variety is mature. The same is true of the striped apples where the base color underneath the stripes turns yellow at maturity.

Other indicators are that mature apples separate easily from the tree by twisting them upward with a rotating motion. Usually, when the seeds become brown, the fruit is ripe. But with early season apple varieties, like Gala, they may be ready to eat before the seeds turn brown. When a few good, healthy apples drop to the ground, the apples on the tree are nearly mature. And remember the taste test: when an apple becomes slightly softer and tastes sweet and juicy, it is mature.

Don’t wash apples until just before using to prevent spoilage. And keep them cool after picking to increase shelf life.

Pears are a little more complicated. Again, check to see the expected ripening dates for the variety. Pears must be picked before they are ripe. They ripen from the inside out, and if left on the tree to ripen, many varieties will become brown at the core and rotten the middle.

Pears are best picked when the fruit separates easily from the twigs. If it is hard to pull off the tree, it isn’t ready! Also feel the fruit. If it feels absolutely rock hard, it’s still not ready. You should be able to detect a slight feeling of give, but not too much. Check the color. Pears are ready to pick when there is a change in the fruit color from green to yellow, and the stem separates easily from the branch.

Pears need to be cooled after picking to ripen properly. Bartlett pears need to be cooled only a day or two in the refrigerator. Then put them in the fruit bowl to ripen. In 4 to 5 days, they should be sweet and ripe.

Anjou, Bosc and Comice require 2 to 6 weeks at near freezing temperatures for optimal effect, followed by ripening at room temperature: Bosc and Comice will ripen in 5 to 7 days; Anjou takes 7-10 days. The longer the time the pears have spent in cold storage, the shorter the time to ripen. Without this chilling process, a mature picked pear will just sit and sit and eventually decompose without ever ripening.

Handle your apples and pears correctly and enjoy your harvest this fall.

Bringing in the Harvest

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • When lily flowers fade, remove the flowers but don’t cut back the stems until leaves have yellowed in the fall.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of coddling moths, which make wormy apples.

Bringing in the Harvest

The long hot days this summer have made the garden grow like crazy and now the harvest is coming in. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, summer squash is plentiful and beans and corn are coming on fast.

It’s time to harvest the garden to keep production going strong. The more you harvest, the more you grow. Harvest vegetables in the morning when they’re crisp and cool.

Squash tastes best when harvested young. Pick zucchini when it is eight inches long, and pick crookneck squash when only six inches long. Immature winter squash lacks flavor, so wait until the rind is hard. Harvest winter squash with two inches of stem remaining. A stem cut too short is like an open wound, and will cause early decay.

Cantaloupes are starting to get ripe. To make melons sweeter, hold off watering a week before you expect to harvest the ripe fruit, when it starts to turn color. A cantaloupe is fully ripe when it pulls off the stem easily.

With other melons, check for a strong, pleasant aroma at the blossom (not stem) end to indicate ripeness. A watermelon is probably ripe if it makes a dull “thunk” when thumped, and when its underside has turned from white to pale yellow.
Pick most kinds of tomatoes when their color is even and glossy and the texture still slightly firm. Some varieties, primarily large heirloom types, ripen before they reach full color. Pick them when they are mostly colored up and bring them inside to finish ripening.

Let sweet peppers reach their final ripe color of red, yellow or orange, for maximum sweetness and flavor. Hot peppers are nutritious at all stages. Sample them at different points to see what you like best.

Lettuce is a fast crop and it’s important to harvest heads before they “bolt” and go to flower. Harvest butterhead lettuce when a loose head is formed; crisphead lettuce when heads are firm; and looseleaf lettuce and romaine any time when the plants are large enough to use. You can pull off leaves of leaf lettuce or harvest the whole head.

Cabbage also must be picked before it bolts. Test the head for firmness, then cut it off. If you have mature heads that you’re not ready to harvest, hold off water or twist the plant to break some of the roots. This should keep them from bolting.

Pick green beans when they are at least three inches long but before they begin to get tough and stringy. Harvest pole beans faithfully every other day and the plants will yield right up to frost.

Corn is ready when the silks turn brown. Check an ear or two by pulling back the husk and testing a kernel with your fingernail. It is squirts a milky-white juice, it’s ripe.

Home gardeners have the advantage of being able to pick their vegetables just as they reach their prime. Knowing when vegetables are perfect for picking is a skill that you will gain with experience. For the best flavor and quality, prepare them for eating or freezing as soon as possible after harvest.

Harvesting Pears

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose chrysanthemums in a variety of colors now. They are hardy perennials which will brighten your garden each fall.
    • Cover newly planted vegetable starts to protect them from birds. Spray cabbage and broccoli plants with BT to control cabbage worms which make holes in the leaves.
    • Plant snapdragons, pansies and violas for color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Michaelmas daisies have bright flowers in purples and dark reds. These perennials come back every year to brighten the fall garden.
    • Lettuce can be planted from starts for a quick fall crop.

The Secret to Harvesting Pears

One advantage to growing your own fruit trees is that you can get tree-ripened fruit, a real rarity in the grocery store. But, unlike other fruits, pears will reach their best quality when ripened off the tree.

When left to ripen on the tree, most European cultivars of pears leave something to be desired in terms of texture and flavor. Tree-ripened pears often turn soft and brown at the core and have an excessively grainy texture.

Pears should be harvested when they are mature, but still hard, and ripened off the tree for the best eating and canning quality. The early varieties will take a few days to a week to ripen after harvest; later ripening varieties often require several weeks or more to reach best quality.

There are several indicators to know when to begin harvesting pears. The most obvious sign is a color change. Pick pears when their color changes from dark to light or yellowish-green but before they are fully yellow. The fruit should be relatively firm. The small dots on the skin should turn from whitish to corky brown. Fruit on heavily loaded trees usually matures a little slower.

Mature fruit of Bartlett and D’Anjou pears will separate easily from their spurs by lifting and twisting. Bosc pears are always difficult to separate from the tree and stems may have to be clipped with pruners.

Pears then have to be ripened indoors. Some pears such as D’Anjou require cold storage before ripening. Bartlett does not require chilling to ripen but D’Anjou and Bosc should be chilled for 2 weeks in the refrigerator away from other fruits and vegetables. Bring them out to room temperature for a week or so to fully ripen before eating them.

Bartlett pears generally ripen in 5 days, Bosc in 7 days and D’Anjou in 7 to 10 days. The longer pears are chilled, the shorter the ripening time when removed from cold storage. Pears are ready to eat when the flesh just below the stem yields evenly to gentle pressure.

If longer-term storage is desired, pick them when they are full size but still quite hard and chill the pears to 32° to 35° F as soon as possible after harvesting. Perforated plastic bags can be used to keep the relative humidity high. Be careful not to bruise or puncture the fruit as injuries provide an entry for decay organisms.

Although different cultivars of pears vary in their maximum storage time, most can be held from two to four months under ideal conditions.

Asian pears, unlike European pears, should be allowed to ripen on the tree. They need no after-ripening storage period. They are ready for harvest when they come away easily from the spur or branch when they are lifted and twisted slightly. Sample the fruit regularly and harvest them when they taste good. Asian pears should be crisp and crunchy when eaten.

Learn how to harvest home-grown pears and enjoy the sweet, juicy fruit this fall.