Aug 3, 2016

How to Know When Fruit is Ready to Pick (The Twist Test & More)

Q: "Can you tell me how to know when my apples and peaches are ripe and ready to pick?"

This is a question I receive almost every day. First, here are the simple steps to learn if fruit is ready for harvesting.

1. If it's fruit that's supposed to be a little soft when ripe (like plums or peaches), give it a gentle squeeze. If it's rock hard, it's not ripe yet. If it seems slightly soft, move on to the next step.

2.  Smell the fruit. Fruit ripened on the tree should generally smell sweet.

3. Put your hand under the fruit, barely touching it. If the fruit falls off, it's probably over-ripe.

4. Hold the fruit in one hand and twist your wrist. If the fruit comes off the tree, it's almost certainly ripe. If it resists, it's not ripe yet. To see how this works, be sure to check out my video on this "twist test," below:

5. Taste the fruit.

More Tips:

* As you become familiar with the fruit tree, you can also use color to help determine when it's time to test for ripeness. For example, our yellow plums are a yellow-green when unripe, but turn golden yellow when fully ripe (and almost orange when over-ripe).

Courtesy of Michael Palmer and Wikimedia Commons.
* Another good hint that fruit might be ripe is when it drops to the ground. There are many reasons this happens; some fruit drops because the it's growing too close together; sometimes fruit drops because of wind or disease; but sometimes it falls to the ground when it's ripe. Tasting windfall fruit is a smart way to learn if the fruit on the tree is ready for harvesting.

* Similarly, when wildlife starts taking an interest in your fruit trees, the fruit is either ripe or nearly so.

* Note that some fruits will continue to ripen once picked. For example, many experts advise picking pears when they easily twist off the tree, but then letting them sit for a week or more until they are softer. Peaches, apples, apricots, nectarines, and plums also continue to ripen once picked. Cherries do not ripen off the tree. However, with the exception of most pears and all avocados, the fruit will taste best if ripened on the tree.

* Typically fruit ripens on the outside of the tree first, and if a limb gets more sun than the others, the fruit on that limb will ripen first. In addition, limbs receiving southern exposure usually ripen first.

* Title image courtesy of General Sisi and Wikimedia Commons.

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