Tag Archive | orchard

Harvesting and Storing Apples

by Lisa Johnson, Horticulture educator for Dane County UW-Extension

apples-1164954_960_720Depending on the variety, apples ripen between early August and late October in Wisconsin. Harvest them when mature, but not ripe. Some clues to help gauge maturity are:

  • When seeds in the core turn from cream to tan to dark brown (sacrifice an apple to check).
  • Fruit is firm, but not hard, with a good taste and aroma. Immature fruits taste starchy and have little aroma.
  • Also, look for color changes. Apples color up first on the side facing the sun. Red varieties change from green to red as they mature, yellow apples go from pale green to yellow, and green apples change from bright green to light green.

Harvest apples carefully to avoid breaking off the fruit spurs they are borne on. Hold the apple in your palm (not fingertips to avoid bruising the fruit) and twist slightly while you pull. Don’t drop the fruit as you harvest, as it may bruise. Bruised fruit stores poorly and shortens the storage life of un-bruised fruit.

Ripening season is a good predictor for storage. Summer apples ripening prior to Labor Day are not good keepers because they only store a few days to two weeks. Use them quickly!

Fall ripening apples keep from one to five months, if harvested before they reach the peak of maturity. Cool them immediately after harvest for best results. If storing them short term, refrigerate at temperatures below 40 degrees, but above freezing. To store for longer periods, keep apples at 33 to 34 degrees and high humidity so they don’t dry out. Plastic bags with holes in them work well for this purpose. Check apples occasionally to make sure none are shriveling or starting to rot.

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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.