We’re noticing this year that people are picking apples much earlier than usual. Is that because the fruit is ready much earlier, or are people getting anxious and picking too early? Here are some pointers we thought might be useful:
Apples are ripe at different times, depending on the variety. You get early, mid and late varieties. Discovery is one of the earliest, usually picked in mid to late August. D’Arcy Spice is a late variety, at its best when picked in November and stored till after Christmas. The majority of apples are usually ready to pick in October.
Everything earlier this year
The time to harvest does vary from year to year though. It depends on what the weather was like in spring, and how early the trees formed blossom and were pollinated. This year in the south of England for example, apples do seem to be ready earlier than usual. We have already noticed in London that Discovery was ready in late July. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent told us that “everything is ready two to three weeks early this year”.
Crapes Fruit Farm in Essex started picking Arthur Turner in August (normally ready in September), and plan to pick Ribson Pippin (normally late September/early October) by 14th September. Read their blog here.
How can you tell when ready?
You know when an apple is ready to pick when you cup it in your hand and give it a slight twist, and it comes off in your hand. If you need to give the fruit a yank, or it leaves its stalk behind, or even a bunch of leaves, it is definitely not ready!
You can also look at the pips to check if the apple is ready – they should be brown if the fruit is ripe, and will be green if unripe.
Fruit on the ground
Apple trees do shed some fruit early, particularly if they have a codling moth caterpillar or sawfly grub inside. So the sight of apples on the ground does not in itself mean the apples on the tree are ready to pick.
Beating the competition
One reason people may be tempted to pick fruit early is to beat others to it. This is especially the case if you have a problem with parakeets, who can strip entire orchards. It is also sad that some people strip community orchards of all their fruit before they are ready. You can try putting up signs indicating when the fruit is likely to be ready. And you can ask people to wait until your community harvest day.
Of course if you pick apples before they are ripe, you may be able to eat them or cook with them, but they will not taste their best.
If you want to get involved in any of our harvesting days in London, keep an eye out on our events page.
This article was originally written in August 2017 but the advice is still very much valid!