I love fruit! It's hard to beat a freshly picked piece of fruit from the backyard.
Sometimes though, it's difficult for me to time when to harvest the fruit, even if I walk by it every day. A lot of different types of fruit may look ripe, but after picking it, it's discovered they may even have a few more weeks to go. Wait too late, and the critters may be enjoying the fruit.
I've started keeping a harvest calendar for my fruit trees to note the ripening dates for the different varieties. That way each year, a week or two before that, I can start inspecting for ripe fruit on the tree.
Each year the weather may be slightly different though, so I'm also planning to note the bloom date also, and that way the harvest and bloom dates from the previous year can be compared. If the bloom date last year was two weeks earlier than this year, the harvest date could be bumped back two weeks to compensate for the earlier blooming. This won't be exact, but I'm hoping it will help me pick fruit at the best time and maximize the harvest!
Does anyone else use a harvest calendar or something similar? How has it worked for you?
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I do a taste test in the field. Most berries are pretty easy you can look at them and tell or you can tell by how they pull off (raspberries, wineberries, blackberries especially). Apples are harder, if you pick a few slightly early though they still make good pie. I keep photos from the year prior harvest that remind me of the approximate date. A calendar is a great idea, I'm just usually not that organized.
There exist fruit harvesting calendars for the Pacific Northwest. I find them useful for educating people and giving them the general idea of what we can grow here, but they're wildly inaccurate if you try to use them for predictive purposes. Cultivars and microclimates make a huge difference. For example, most list pears as starting in September here. And while that is true for probably 90% of the cultivars grown here, there are several pears that will ripen here in July and August. Ditto with apples. And because of the hills, mountains, and proximity (or lack thereof) to bodies of water and urban heat islands, other variations can get pretty wild too even within the same cultivar.
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
Like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. While they might have been picked at just the right time, if they are stored in the refrigerator, they have a very bland taste, yet leave them out on the counter, and at room temperature they are succulent. Obviously we have to do things to store them long term, but storage plays a huge role in flavor. (They can pick up other flavors as well during storage).
The way I judge my food calendar is whether I can eat that fruit on the first day of that month. Some might have ripened earlier than that, but it’s easier to know when they’re definitely available.
What I love about relying on your own fruit is that you really enjoy them a lot more when it’s been nine months since you tasted it last. With enough space and luck you can grow enough varieties to never be bored or lacking in fruit.
Here it’s spring and fortunately loquats aren’t sold in shops, but many parks and yards have them. When I taste a loquat I just know that it’s spring; when I think of Spring, I think ‘loquats!’. Andsoon I’ll have to wait nearly another year before I have them again. But I’m not sad, because soon apricots will be available, so something else is always there just around the corner. That’s what makes supermarket convenience so boring and uninspiring... yes you eat apples and bananas every day of the year, but they have no fragrance and they’re so omnipresent that they just aren’t exciting.
While making notes on ripening dates, I'd suggest looking for other indicators for each variety. I'm betting they each have one, but it might be subtle or it might be obvious. Scent works for some varieties, where another one it might be the glossiness that changes. Or maybe the stem changes and isn't as plump anymore. Or maybe the nearest leaf starts to wither. There's got to be something, and the only way to find it for each variety is to take notes.
My pie came with a little toothpic holding up this tiny ad:
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