When to Harvest Fruit Trees, Soft Fruit or Bush Fruit?

When Should Fruit Be Picked? When should top fruit, soft fruit or bush fruit be picked? It’s easy to say when it is ripe, but how do we recognise ripe from nearly ripe? And how do we ensure we don’t leave it too long and how do we stop the slugs and birds getting it all?

Recognising Ripe Fruit, Ready For Picking.

It’s much easier to recognise ripe fruit than many people think. Unripe fruit is quite hard and unyielding when touched, whereas ripe fruit is softer to touch.

When Should Fruit Be Picked? These apples are ready
When Should Fruit Be Picked? These apples are ready

That’s the simple answer but nature has a very simple way of showing us when the fruit is ready. It is easy to pick. Don’t confuse this with the fact there might be plenty of fallen fruit under the trees. Unripe fruit can fall when the tree or bush has to much fruit and the plant can’t support it. In these situation it aborts surplus fruit. And fruit also drops in stormy weather.

The time to pick is when the ripe fruit is ready. And the simple way to check for this is to pick some.

Let’s take apples as an example. If you cup an apple, still on the tree, in the palm of your hand and gently twist it you’ll know if it is ripe. If it is ripe it will detach from the tree very easily.

If you need to tug on it or if it comes away with a long bit of twig attached or some leaves it wasn’t ready.

Freshly picked fruit - When Should Fruit Be Picked?

Plums are the same. Just take a plum between your fingers and very gently twist it a half turn. If it comes away from the tree it is ready.

Pears are similar as well as most top fruit.

What Are Top Fruit?

Top fruit all have a few things in common. They all have seeds inside a fleshy edible exterior. And they all grow on trees. And when I say trees I mean they are plants that may be grown in the soil or containers, on various roots stocks and as fan grown trees, espalier or similar. All have the capability of growing into trees if left to their own devices.

Top fruit include the common types such as apple (Malus domestic), pear, (Pyrus communis) plum (Prunis domestica), cherry (Prunus Spp) as well as the more uncommon including medlars (Mespilus Germanica), quince (Cydonia oblonga) and apricots (Prunus armenica), yuzu , orange, lemon and other citrus species.

What Are Bush Fruit?

Bush fruit include gooseberries, blackcurrants and related species.

What Are Cane Fruit?

Cane fruit include raspberries, tayberries etc.

What Are Soft Fruit?

Strawberries are soft fruit but then it gets a bit more complicated. Because raspberries are soft fruit as well as being cane fruit. And grapes are soft fruit but are also vine fruit or arguably could be included under the bush fruit category.

The Fruiting Reality

When Should Fruit Be Picked? These pears  are nearly ready
When Should Fruit Be Picked? These pears are nearly ready

The reality is that the names don’t matter that much. They are just words to try to help us categorise the different types of fruit and sometimes confuse the issue. Go to any wholesale market in London, Leeds or Lucknow and the sales people will have a name for each category that they agree on. It makes little difference to you and I as we grow them in our gardens and allotments.

As for when to pick them the same general rule applies. It’s when they detach from the plant with little effort.

Which Month Are Fruit Ready To Pick?

Just as potatoes have earlies, second earlies and main crop varieties apples are similar in that they ripen in different months.

Some varieties are ready in August. They include Bardsey, Beauty of Bath, Discovery, Katy, RosetteTM, Scrumptious & Worcester Pearmain. Late apples include Adams Pearmain, Ashmead’s Kernel, Braeburn, Claygate Pearmain, Elstar, Fiesta a & Herefordshire Russet. There are around 7000 apple varieties worldwide of which around 2500 have apparently been grown in the UK

Are Tomatoes Top Or Vine Fruit?

As I point out above. It doesn’t really matter which they are. Some people even classify them as vegetables even though botanically they are fruit. But it doesn’t matter what we call them.

Tomatoes are problematic enough in another way. What colour is a ripe tomato? Some say just turning colour and others say when they have a well developed colour and are soft to the touch. But they can be eaten at either stage though most of us have our own preferences. I’m not going to tell you my preference .. it’ll start too many arguments!

A tomato is ready to pick as soon as it starts to change colour. And to pick it takes just a gentle twist against the knuckle! For those that don’t understand this let me explain. Just above the tomato fruit the stem has a slight knuckle before it goes into the truss. Bend the fruit against that knuckle and the stem snaps at the “abscission layer” nature has provided. But if you find that too difficult it isn’t going to ruin the flavour of your fresh fruit!

Are All Fruit The Same?

No. There are loads of culinary fruit, from pomes, drupes, pepos, berries, hesperidium to aggregate fruits. To discover more about them go to Wikipedia


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