Quick Reminder: How to Pick Apples and Pears

Pear ‘Nouveau Poitou’, not yet ripe – leave them on the tree a bit longer!

It’s September and, if the weather has been kind and you found time for a bit of judicious fruit thinning back in June or July, your apple and pear trees are hopefully groaning under the weight of good-sized fruit that looks like it might just be ripe and ready for picking.

Not everything will be ripe and ready just yet though. Quite a lot of apple and pear varieties will grow to a good size, and maybe even redden[1], a few weeks before they’ve actually finished ripening; cooking varieties in particular probably won’t be ready for at least a month, if not two.

A fruit that is ripe and ready will detach from the branch it has been growing on very, very easily indeed – in some cases rather too easily, which is why I’ve been cooking up windfalls by the dozen for a few weeks now – but if it’s not ripe then it will remain stubbornly and firmly attached.

Here, then, is a quick reminder – based on a longer post that I wrote this time last year – of the simple three-step method for checking whether an apple or pear is ready for picking or not:

  1. Cup the fruit gently in the palm of your hand.
  2. Lift the fruit gently towards horizontal.
  3. Detach the ripe fruit, or return it gently to position if it’s not ripe yet.

Like this:

Cup the fruit in the palm of your hand…
Lift the fruit gently towards horizontal…
Detach the ripe fruit, or return it to position if it’s not ripe yet.

Don’t do any of the following to the fruit if you can possibly help it: grab, pull, twist, tug or yank. Doing so might damage the fruit itself, or the section of the tree you’re removing it from. See last year’s post for all the reasons why hasty harvesting could be bad for next year’s crop as well as this year’s.

If you’re in a hurry – maybe Apple Day is looming, or the squirrels and pigeons are attacking and damaging the crop – then use a sharp, clean pair of scissors, secateurs or deadheading snips to cut the stalk. If the fruit has a very short, or no stalk then a gentle twist can help dislodge it if it’s ripe.

How about you? Do you have a similar method for picking apples and pears? Do you have a good method for picking safely and easily from larger trees? Do let me know, via the comments.


1 It’s very easy to confuse reddening with ripening, especially as quite a lot of fruit books and orchard manuals make the same assumption. Reddening is – in varieties of apples or pears that actually redden, which not all of them do – a by-product of ripening, but not necessarily an indicator of ripening. It’s something I plan to look into and attempt to explain in more detail later this year.

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