University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Harvesting fall fruits at the correct stage, and storing them properly, will result in their longest life and usefulness, often for months.
If you find a grower with fall raspberries, or like me grow your own, these are a special treat this time of year.  As with the summer raspberries, pick when they easily pull off from the central “core or stem, refrigerate soon if you don’t eat them first.  Make sure to wash well, checking for insects that may be enjoying a fall snack as well.  They wont keep long, so eat or use in a few days, or freeze them.  Rinse well, spread on paper towels or cookie sheets in a freezer, then place loosely into freezer containers. If you place into containers and then freeze the berries, they tend to freeze into one large mass.
Don’t rely on color alone when deciding when grapes are ripe and ready to pick.  Growers actually measure sugar content (“brix”) to determine when to pick.  You can do this simply by tasting.  Ripe grapes are sweet (particularly if table grapes), many have a whitish “bloom” coating, seeds are brown, and clusters separate easily from vines.  Birds eating your fruit also are a clue that fruit are ripe!  You can pick grapes slightly unripe or “green” if you will use them for jelly, or if they won’t ripen further.  The latter occurs if the average temperatures drop below 50 degrees (F), and frost has killed the vines.
Grapes store best if picked dry, and if the whitish bloom isn’t rubbed off.  Pick whole clusters rather than individual grapes, leaving the stems intact.  Harvested this way they’ll store for several weeks in a refrigerator. 
Many tree fruits ripen in the north in early fall.  Fruit should separate from branches easily, with a slight upward twist.  Resist the temptation to squeeze and poke fruit with fingernails.
For European plums, such as the late ‘Stanley’ or ‘Damson’, pick when they are fully colored and covered with a white, powdery bloom similar to grapes.  They’ll store for a few weeks in a refrigerator. 
If you grow some of the hardy European pears, such as ‘Flemish Beauty’, ‘Luscious’, ‘Parker’ or ‘Patten’, pick fruit early.  Unlike most tree fruits, don’t let these ripen on the tree, otherwise they’ll become gritty and begin to rot inside the fruit.  Use a gentle, upward twist when picking, and leave stems on the fruit.  Wrap them in tissue paper or newspaper, and store cool (35 to 45 degrees F) for a week or more, until ready to eat.  For best flavor, leave them at room temperature for a few days before using or eating.
If you’re lucky to have a warm enough area to grow peaches, such as the hardier ‘Redhaven’ or ‘Reliance’, they’re best ripened on the tree prior to picking.  Ripe peaches and the related nectarines (basically a non-fuzzy peach) are fully colored when ripe and somewhat soft.  For this reason pick and handle with care, as they easily bruise.  Apricots—ripe when still firm but a blush color—are a bit firmer, but still handle with care.  These will store generally for 5 to 6 days if cool, or 3 to 4 days if at room temperature.  Wait to wash them until you’re ready to use.
Apples are probably the most popular tree fruit, with many cultivars (cultivated varieties) ripening at various times.  Some, such as ‘Baldwin’, ‘Cortland’, ‘McIntosh’, and ‘Northern Spy’ ripen over a fairly short season.  Others, such as the heirlooms ‘Gravenstein’, ‘Jonathon’, and ‘Winesap’ ripen and are harvested over a longer period.  If you plan to store apples, use them for cooking, or just need to beat local wildlife to them, pick unripe. 
Apples are fully ripe when they’ve turned the appropriate color.  Ripe apples separate from the tree easily.  Just make sure when picking not to damage any of the short stems called “spurs” that will produce next year’s fruit.  If in doubt about ripeness, cut an apple open and look at the flesh and seeds. The flesh of ripe apples is less green, more white, in general.  Seeds of ripe apples have turned brown.  The best indicator, though, is taste.  A ripe apple is crisp, juicy, and sweet (although, of course, the particular flavor will vary with cultivar).
Wash apples and store cool soon after picking, unless you want to ripen them at room temperature or are going to use then.  They should last 4 to 6 weeks in a refrigerator.  Later cultivars generally store longer than earlier ones.  Mid-season ones such as ‘Cortland’ and ‘McIntosh’ will last up to 4 months while later ones, such as the heirlooms ‘Rome’ and  ‘Winesap’, often last 5 months or more.  Best conditions to store apples are cool (40 degrees F or below but not freezing), with high humidity. 
Make sure to store fruits away from vegetables, if possible.  Apples can pick up a musty flavor from nearby potatoes.  Both apples and pears can pick up strong odors from nearby cabbages, turnips, and onions.  Keep apples away from other fruits too.  They give off ethylene gas which can cause other fruits to ripen more quickly.
More tips on picking, storing, as well as using these and other fruits, can be found in the Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry (Storey Publishing).

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