Tag Archive | Apples

The Fruits of Orchard

by OCMGA Master Gardener Lynne Finch

After moving into our house with fruit trees in the backyard, I envisioned gently dropping ripe fruit into a basket while my smiling children danced around. Seductive aromas would drift from my kitchen as I baked magnificent pies and canned and froze our bounty. That was the dream.

In our first walk-through of our orchard, we saw an apple tree with a five-inch diameter trunk only a few feet away from a young cherry tree. A few steps away stood a pear tree. Nearby grew a plum tree partnered with another apple tree.pear-453828_960_720

These five small trees stood like a wee forest in the equally small backyard behind the kitchen. Even to a new gardener like me, they looked a bit too cozy. The cherry and plum trees were young enough to be transplanted to the big spacious side yard. The other apple tree had to go to make way for our vegetable garden. This gave the pear and apple trees some breathing room.

The cherry and plum staged their annual contest for best springtime bloom with the plum always coming in second. Not only were the plums not tasty, but a nasty winter killed the tree. As for the traditional Christmas dessert, did you know there are no plums in plum pudding?

The cherry tree looked good year round, the bark a smooth purplish-brown. Cherry blossoms in spring ripened like little red ornaments during the summer. The squirrels scampered on the branches, hanging upside down eating until their faces dripped red with juice.

With the abundant fruit on the tree, I filled my basket and started pitting. Alas, for each pit there was at least one worm. Never did make a cherry pie. A few seasons later half the tree died, then the year with no blossoms or buds. Cannot lie about it; we cut down the cherry tree. Sitting in front of the fireplace, the kids would wave glowing branch tips while cherry aroma filled the room.

Now we were down to two fruit trees. The pear tree produced for several years. Each fall I lined up the canned jars in the basement. Then the tree split and lingered a bit, the last year standing forlornly with a few pears dangling on a single branch.

apple-tree-1593216_960_720The lone survivor is a full-size mature apple tree, greeting us each morning through our bedroom window. Each spring the blossoms tell a different story. Many blossoms, few blossoms, early ones, late ones, fast petal drop, slow petal drop.

The trunk is now nearly 20 inches in diameter with strong branches reaching out like fingers on giant hands. My kids climbed in and sat like birds in a nest. Now my grandkids settle in an even bigger nest. A visitor once commented on the great bones of our apple tree. Indeed, it is a magnificent sculpture that spreads itself out to shade our porch.

The apple tree and I continue to travel through the seasons together; blossom time, petal drop and the progression of windfalls that I faithfully pick up. The tree peeks in through the kitchen window as I mix its tart, sweet flavor in pies and applesauce. When all other trees stand bare, the apple tree hangs on to its leaves, determined to be the last one to give up and settle down for the winter ahead.

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Ripe Fruit

by Sharon Morrisey, consumer horticulture agent for Milwaukee County

Many summer fruits ripen from July through fall. Summer raspberries (Rubus) are next to ripen after June-bearing strawberries (Fragaria ananassa). They are ready to pick when slightly firm, aromatic and flavorful. Pick all ripe berries every couple of days. Overripe fruit attracts picnic bugs, which are no picnic when they feast on your fruit.

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Vineyard swathed in netting to protect the ripening fruit

Grape (Vitis vinifera) varieties often look ripe before they actually are. It may take an additional two to three weeks on the vine for the full sugar content to develop. They do not continue ripening after picking, so do not pick until they taste perfectly ripe. Then, use as soon after harvest as possible because they don’t store well.

Stone fruits (Prunus spp.), such as plums, cherries, apricots, and peaches that survived the winter, should not be picked until they are ripe, either. Unfortunately, the birds seem to know the exact minute that occurs. They can devour an entire cherry crop in one afternoon. The only ways to prevent this are to either cover the entire tree with bird netting as soon as the fruit begins developing or use a chemical repellant spray.

As soon as the larger fruits are ripe, birds begin pecking holes in them. A friend of mine checks them daily and at the first sign of pecking, he harvests the entire crop, thus avoiding the use of chemicals and the hassle of bird netting.

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Beautiful, freshly-picked apples

Like grapes, apples often look ripe before they really are, since the outer color often develops first. Start by knowing when the varieties you are growing are supposed to ripen. There are varieties that ripen from early August through October.

  • Lodi – 1st week in August
  • Redfree – 3rd week in August
  • Gala – 2nd week in September
  • Honeycrisp – 3rd week in September
  • Nova Easygro – 3rd week in September
  • Empire – 1st week of October
  • Liberty – 1st week of October
  • Jonathan – 2nd week of October
  • Golden Delicious – 3rd week of October

The best indicator of ripeness is the color of the seeds. When they are completely shiny brown, the fruit is ripe. You may end up sacrificing an apple every couple of days this way, however. Another indicator is more subtle, but involves a change in the shade of green in the skin at the stem end of the fruit. When it turns from a bright, green-apple green to a lighter shade, it’s time to check the seeds for uniform color.

Storing Apples

Apple harvest, Autumn

Apple harvest, Autumn

The Outagamie County Master Gardener Association is proud and lucky to be affiliated with the University of Wisconsin Extension and the educational resources of The Learning Store. From one of the publications at The Learning Store (“Growing Apples in Wisconsin”) comes information on storing your precious fruit after harvest.

I remember being a child and going into the basement (or “cellar” as we called it then) to get fresh apples, each of which had been individually wrapped in newspaper in the fall to keep the skins from touching one another during storage. Not sure if the generations of today would even understand the concept of gathering and storing apples for the winter, but this publication offers the following advice:

“Fall- or winter-ripening applies, which ripen in September and October, will store well for 1-5 months. If you plan to store the apples, harvest them before the peak of maturity while they are still firm. Discard or use any blemished, diseased, or damaged fruit. Store only the best fruit. Overripe or bruised apples will not only store poorly, but the ethylene gas they produce will shorten the life of sound fruit.

Cool apples promptly and keep them constantly cold. For short-term storage, refrigerate at temperatures below 40ºF. For longer storage, temperatures of 32º-34ºF and high humidity are required. Don’t allow fruit to freeze. Keeping fruit in plastic bags with small holes in the bags will help avoid water loss and shriveling. Check the fruit occasionally and remove soft or damaged fruit.”

The 24-page booklet covers information about growing apples such as site selection, planting, weed management, pruning, insect pests, and diseases, as well as much more information. The publication can be purchased as a pamphlet for $4.00 from The Learning Store, or you can simply download the entire publication as a .pdf file to your computer by clicking here. Take advantage of university-based research and education by utilizing the many publications available through The Learning Store by following this link: http://learningstore.uwex.edu/.

Written by Vicki