There's nothing like eating freshly picked fruit from the garden. For the best results, harvest top fruit and soft fruit with care at the correct time. The advice below explains how to gauge the timing and about some of the problems that may be encountered.
When to do it
Early summer Goji berries, gooseberries and strawberries.
Mid-summer Apricots, blueberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, jostaberry, nectarines, peaches and strawberries.
Late summer Early-ripening apple cultivars, blackberries, damsons, figs, grapes, plums and raspberries.
Autumn Apples, goji berries, medlar, pears and quince, autumn-fruiting raspberries.
When is it actually ripe?
- The ripening period of all fruit varies from year to year, according to the local climate
- Timing is important – if picked too soon, the flavour of the fruit may not be fully developed; but leave it too late and flavour and the storage quality will be poor
- Assess whether trees and bushes are ready for picking by checking the ripeness of a few individual fruits using taste, texture, touch, and visual clues
- If sound-looking fruit start falling off the tree (windfalls), it is usually ready for harvest, though this does not always hold true with pears. More importantly, apples should be firm, sweet, crunchy; pears hard but sweet; and plums soft to the touch
Most fruit should taste sweet and palatable with a few exceptions:
- Quince and medlar are unpalatable when first picked – harvest as late as possible but before the first frosts
- Gooseberries can be picked under-ripe for jam or left to sweeten and soften on the bush. However, some cultivars are sweeter than others and these are known as dessert gooseberries
- Redcurrants and acid cherries are always sour, but are ripe when swollen, soft and deep coloured
- Cooking apples are usually sour but can be harvested once windfalls begin to drop; and before the first frosts
- Dessert apples for storage can be picked slightly under-ripe