Archive for fruit ripeness

Elephant Heart Plums

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit with tags , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by Grouse Mt. Farm

It’s been almost five months since I harvested the Elephant Heart plums, September 18, 2012 to be exact. It wasn’t much of a harvest, often times it isn’t with this variety, for us anyway. We have three big mature trees that usually bloom prolifically but more often then not, just don’t set fruit. We’ve planted a few more varieties of Japanese plums to help with the pollination (Plums can be fickle this way) and when the weather is conducive to bees getting out and visiting the flowers, we have gotten good crops from these trees. The weather is a huge factor here too (as with most everything), it’s  often windy, cold and rainy in the spring, so bees don’t have a chance to get out and  do what they do. Other plums we have seem to never have an issue with setting fruit; Santa Rosa, Shiro, Burbank, all pretty much bloom around the same time and are consistent bearers. The Elephant heart is one of a few varieties we grow that customers ask us about when we get back to the markets in July, months before they’re ready, a favorite.

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Elephant Heart Plums, in January !

 

You might be wondering why I’ve chosen now to write about this illustrious fruit now? As I mentioned above, we didn’t get much of a harvest last fall, but we did get about a box (20+ pounds or so) which we kept for ourselves, and I’ve been eating them with my breakfast since, one or two every day. I just ate the last ones today; January 14, 2013, no foolin’! Not all were in great shape, they begin to break down with browning around the pit spreading to the skin, some of ours had browned a little, but still good to eat. Thats right, FIVE months since harvest, for a soft fruit! I wouldn’t attempt to market them this late, but to know they can last this long is a revelation to me. The longest we’ve kept them before was to just after the Thanksgiving holiday (late november) and then to just before Christmas, but into January now. Our method of storage is that I turn off the refrigerator unit in our walk in cooler when it gets cold out (November) and use the cold outside air to cool it, basically a refrigerator.

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This coming season, if we get any to set, I’d like to pick some a week or ten days before when I usually harvest them and see if they last any longer or hold up better in storage, and if they’ll ripen. It’s a bit of balancing act with fruit harvests, when a variety is destined for a long term storage it gets picked sooner then if the fruit is intended for immediate  consumption, but care must be taken to make sure the fruit is ripe enough to mature when taken out of storage and also not to pick it too ripe off the tree and too far along the ripeness spectrum as to be past prime. (Ever had a peach from the grocery store that never get sweet or ripen properly, they were picked to soon. Conversely, if you leave a peach on the tree just past it’s optimum picking window, it gets mealy and loses sweetness ) And of course it varies dramatically from fruit to fruit and also from variety to variety within the same fruit. But, Japanese plums in January that weren’t shipped halfway around the world, Yeah!!

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Fresh for Market – August 6, 2011

Posted in farmers market, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit, whats fresh with tags , , , , , , , on August 5, 2011 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Montmorency Sour Cherries

We’re finally having some real summer weather, not too hot but it is feeling like summer. We missed the market last week because the fruit wasn’t quite ripe. Usually this time of year all the cherries have been picked, but we’re right in the middle of cherry harvest now. Everything else is late as well, I’m hoping our late apples and pears have enough time to ripen before it gets too cold this fall. The reason everything is so late is that we had  a cold, wet spring and a cool summer here in the Northwest.

This week well have :

Van Sweet Cherries

Bing Sweet Cherries

Rainer Sweet Cherries

North Star Sour Cherries

Montmorency Sour Cherries

Springcrest Peaches

Mulberries

Red Currants

Shallots

Summer Squash

Harvesting Pie or Sour Cherries

Unlike sweet cherries, when we pick pie cherries we have to cut them off the tree. The sweet cherries stems come off the spur pretty easily, whereas if you pick a pie cherry that way the stem rips the spur off ( the spur is the tree bud on a branch where the flowers come out of and hence the fruit) and lose the potential for fruit to be there next season. And if you pull the cherry , often times the stem and pit will be left on the tree, which is fine if you’re going to eat the fruit right away, but it won’t store well. It takes much more time to harvest this way, but pretty much the only way we’ve figured out to pick them for so they’ll hold up for  fresh market. Most sour cherries are grown for processing so storage or appearance of the fruit is of little concern.

See you on Saturday.

 

 

 

Fresh on the Market Table for October 30, 2010

Posted in farmers market, Grouse Mt. Farm, whats fresh with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by Grouse Mt. Farm

King David Apple


Its getting quiet in the orchard, only a few trees left with fruit still hanging. The colors have been beautiful and still no hard freeze here at our place. We can see snow up on the higher ridges and peaks above us, it won’t be long until its here in the lowlands.
A few new varieties this week:
Northern Spy Apple
Newtown Pippin Apple
-A-Ri-Rang Asian Pear
Also this week:
-Jonathan Apple
-Prairie Spy Apple
-Nickajack Apple
-King David Apple
-Belle de Boskopp Apple
-Spitzenburg Apple
-Bosc Pear
-Hosui Asian Pear
-Walnuts (the last of them)

Newtown Pippin Apple


This Saturday at the University District Farmers Market in Seattle, along with the regular market activities AppleLooza will be taking place. A celebration of Apples, there will be a apple tasting, apple info and an pie making demo. I will also be there demonstrating a low tech method to check apples for ripeness. (See my September 15 post about the subject) Come enjoy and celebrate great Washington state apples!
See you Saturday.

Northern Spy Apples

When to Pick Apples

Posted in farmers market, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit with tags , , on September 15, 2010 by Grouse Mt. Farm

I’m often asked when the right time to pick an apple is, a fruit may look ripe for weeks before its optimally ready to harvest. It varies from variety to variety, different years may change the pick day, and what the fruit is intended for has some bearing on when to harvest (i.e. for immediate consumption or long term storage). I use a few tools; a pressure tester (or Penetrometer) , a refractometer and a solution of iodine. The first two are quite useful but not necessary for checking backyard fruit.

Testing for apple ripeness, the dial tool is a pressure tester and the other is a refractometer


The pressure tester is used to check the density of the fruit ( Also the main way to check Pears for ripeness) the probe end is inserted into the fruit (a flat spot cut) to the indented line on the probe end and the dial indicates how much pressure to get to that point .

Pressure testing an Apple


Then I check the soluble solids, brix level or basically the sugar of the fruit with the refractometer. I keep track of all the info leading up to optimum harvest from year to year, so I know about when a particular variety will be ripening. Like I said before, this is all neat o tools which if you can afford, like this kind of thing and have fruit to test, get it. But my favorite and really telling way of checking apple maturity is the starch /iodine test. And very economical too.

apples cut cross wise prior to the starch/iodine test


The above (and below) photo was taken September 14th, the apples are cut cross across the core, exposing the seed cavity. A iodine solution was sprayed on (below photo) and what is revealed is the sugar to starch ratio of the fruit. The iodine stains the starch in the fruit black but not the sugar.

apples after being sprayed with a iodine solution


Starting at the upper left, going across then back to the lower row. I started with the Sunrise apple which I knew to be too ripe (was left on the tree after I harvested them a couple of weeks ago) shows all sugar. At that point its too ripe and soft, good for apple sauce. The next three show a good mix of starch to sugar, the Arlet apple is optimum (I’ve already started picking them) the Pink Pearl and McIntosh will come off soon. The lower row shows mostly a starch pattern except the Coxs Orange Pippin in which I’ll do some further testing, but is at the point in the photo which would be good for long term storage. The others on the bottom row I’ll keep track of and test in coming weeks, all still too green . A apple too ripe, as the Sunrise is bland and soft, the next few have a good blend of starches and sugar but won’t keep for long (a few weeks in a fridge). For long term storage the fruit needs to be somewhat along in ripening but not too far, the vascular bundle (the area around the seed cavity) needs to be sugar. Thats part of the trick to getting the fruit ripe enough but not too ripe, if picked to green or starch it won’t ripen no matter how long its stored. Another indicator of when to start testing is the seeds, they need to be turning or be brown. And generally early apples won’t keep as long as later apples will. If you only have a few apples and aren’t concerned with storage, taste it!