You can’t beat eating fruit straight from the tree. After all the work you have put in to producing it this is one of the pleasure you have earned. Fresh fruit and vegetables have lots of healthy vitamins and minerals and always taste much better than shop bought goods. The problem is you can’t always eat the whole of your crop due to the quantity that has grown. There has to come a point where you need to store some of it.
The Time to Pick Your Fruit
If you are intent on eating the fruit immediately then it should be fully ripe before picking it. Nature has designed fruit to ripen best on its parent tree so avoid picking unripe fruit and leaving it to ripen. If you are going to store your fruit you want to avoid picking it when it is fully ripe, just try to time it so it is mature but just before it is fully ripe. Judging the right time to do this can be a hit and miss affair at first but comes with experience. If the fruit comes away easily in the hand, then it is usually the ideal time. Don’t go mad when picking your fruit as not all of it will be ready at the same time. The fruit which gets the most sun will ripen quicker than that in the shade.
The rules with most fruit picking is to do a tour of the whole tree and try each fruit in turn. You pick only the fruit that come away easily. Avoid picking fruit when it is wet wait until it is dry. Be gentle to avoid bruising the flesh. Leave some of the stalk on your harvest as can cause it rot. Pears should be picked before they are fully ripe and then allowed to ripen for a few days as it will improve their flavour. Don’t pick them if they don’t meet the above requirements as they can shrivel. In the case of plums and damsons that you are going to cook, turn into jam or bottle they are best picked when slightly under ripe. These fruits do not keep too well but if you pick them when they a little under ripe they will keep for about fourteen days.
Pick cherries with the aid of secateurs with the stalk attached. They should be picked when they are perfectly ripe. Never pull cherries from trees as any stalk left on the tree could cause the tree to suffer from rot.
Peaches and nectarines have a red flush when ripe and should feel soft where the stalk enters the body of the fruit. If they away easily from the tree then you can assume they are ripe.
Apricots become ripe a couple of weeks after they have stopped swelling but do need to be picked without damaging the skin.
Citrus fruits should be picked by using secateurs again ensure you do not damage the skin of the fruit. They usually grow to a good size and then take on the familiar colour associated with their type.
Before storing any fruit check they are in perfect condition. If there is any sign of rot, bruising or are marked then discard them.
Some of the most popular fruits can be bottled or made into jam. There is little point in listing the different fruits for turning into jam. Glean this information from your local supermarket, online or from a good cook book. Apples and pears can be stored in a cool place for about year but it is wise to check the variety. Some varieties store better and longer than others.
You can store apples and pears ensuring they are not touching one another, in slices or as a puree (as in apple sauce). Read up on the variety of apple you produce as some will store well right up to the following spring. Others will only last as little as a week after picking. Later apple varieties usually store well but early varieties should be eaten with a short time of picking. Store apples and pears away from bright light in a draught environment such as a shed, garage or cellar. It should be a frost free environment. The ideal temperature should be a fairly constant 45 degrees Celsius. As you take the fruit from storage only take what you intended to use as they will deteriorate in higher temperatures. You need to check on your stored fruit to take out any that are deteriorating so wrapping them could be a problem. Instead of wrapping your fruit in newspaper lay in trays or racks. You can separate each fruit with pieces of card or newspaper.
Cut apricots in half and freeze them. You can bottle cherries once stoned or freeze them. With peaches and nectarines stone the fruits and then bottle them.
Preserving and Freezing
To freeze apples and pears slice them or cook and puree them. With stoned fruit such as plums and damsons remove the stones before freezing.
Bottling is another method of preserving stone fruits but again remove the stones first. They are also suitable for drying, especially apricots.
Some citrus fruits can be dried but with oranges, lemons and grapefruit preserve them by turning them into jams and marmalades by cooking them in sugar and water.