- Author: Dustin Blakey
You no doubt have noticed that those green bananas you bought at the store a few days ago have steadily turned yellow and are beginning to show some brown spots. Some fruits, like bananas, continue to ripen in some way after they are harvested. We call these “climacteric” fruit.
Climacteric fruit are great if you are selling produce. A grower can pick and ship their fruit while it is immature and depend on it ripening after it's purchased. Gardeners often pride themselves on picking ripe fruit out of their gardens, but it is still good to understand how fruit ripening works, particularly as the season ends in fall.
Many fruits, once they reach a particular level of maturity, will continue to ripen; they are the climacteric fruits. This process is associated with the production of the plant hormone ethylene gas and an sharp increase in respiration. Tomatoes, cantaloupes, pears, apples, peaches, avocados, bananas, and figs are all climacteric fruits; however, their ripening may look a little different for each species.
If you've ever consumed store-bought tomatoes and peaches, you'll note their color and firmness will change, but there isn't an amazing change in sweetness or flavor, whereas pears and bananas transform into a wonderful, tasty treat. That is why home-grown tomatoes are so wonderful, and having fruit trees is still popular despite the hard work needed to maintain them properly.
Not all fruits have this ripening pattern. Grapes, strawberries, pineapple, pomegranate, and citrus are non-climacteric fruits. They tend to last a long time since there is not an ethylene induced burst of respiration. You've probably noticed that citrus fruits taste and look very much the same from the day you get them until you eat the last one. Even non-climacteric fruit eventually will change their character, especially pineapple. It's just not associated with the same burst of physiological activity.
Ripening is an important topic for gardeners to know something about for two reasons: fall harvest and extended storage.
At the end of season you may be tempted to harvest all you can before frost. If a fruit is climacteric, and it is far enough along on the road to maturity, it will continue to ripen. This is handy for tomatoes. Completely immature, green tomatoes may need to be used as such, but if there is a hint of color the chances are good they will ripen on your counter if they did not get too cold. If you have a questionable watermelon in the garden that is underripe, it won't compete the ripening process since it is not climacteric fruit. They need to be picked ripe.
The other key reason as a gardener to understand which fruits are climacteric is to prolong storage. All fruits will ripen more slowly in cooler temperatures, but the ideal temperature varies by fruit. Tomatoes prefer being kept about 50°F but apples are closer to 32°F. Most refrigerators are set around 40°F. If temperatures get too low, then ripening may never happen, but too warm and fruit will continue to mature quickly.
In addition to temperature, climacteric fruit are usually sensitive to ethylene. Not only do they release ethylene gas, but they are very receptive to it. To prolong shelf life and delay ripening, keep ripening fruit away from fruit you are trying to keep from ripening. When you are ready for stored fruit to ripen you can bring it into a warmer location and put it into a bag or with other ripening climacteric fruit to hasten the process.
If you want to experiment with ripening (a good science project to undertake with kids doing distance learning this year) look at ripening pears and bananas. Both are easy to ripen and will show their progress in an obvious way. Underripe fruit are available year-round. Try ripening them at different temperatures, both together and apart.
Now that you know more about fruit ripening, hopefully you will have more options with storing and using produce from your garden and the store.
For more information, see this article which explains the physiology of fruit ripening in much more detail than you really care about. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/12042368.pdf
- Author: Alison Collin
Many new hybrids of stone fruits have been appearing in catalogs and on supermarket shelves in recent years resulting in a plethora of new terms many of which are defined below.
The most common hybrids are those between apricots (Prunus armeniaca) and Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) or cherry plums (P. cerasifera) and are known as interspecific plums. First generation crosses are known as plumcots, a name coined by Luther Burbank, or apriplums usually based on which they more closely resemble.
Beyond these first generation crosses further hybridization has taken place resulting in a plethora of modern hybrids containing differing percentages of the original parents and resulting in certain characteristics of either of the original fruits being dominant, but with distinct benefits such as increased hardiness, less acidity, higher sugar content, or with firmer flesh making for more marketable features.
While Luther Burbank experimented with early hybridization of plums and apricots, we have Floyd Zaiger, a family fruit farmer and a truly remarkable hybridizer in Modesto, California to thank for most of these newer, interesting hybrids. He has devoted his life to painstakingly hybridizing stone fruits by hand pollination, creating hundreds of new varieties. Out of all the hundreds of crosses that he grows each year only a very select few go forward to further trials to become new named varieties. Selections of these are now marketed by Dave Wilson Nursery. See links below.
Pluots are characterized by a smooth plum-like skin and a complex flavor where the plum dominates."Pluots" were created in the 20th century by Floyd Zaiger.
In Apriums the apricot dominates both in the external appearance of the fruit and the flavor and texture. Like apricots they tend to be early ripening, but are generally firmer and have a rosy glow overlaying the orange skin. Like pluot, aprium is also a trademark of Zaiger's.
Color-cot interspecific apricots are complex hybrids between apricots and plums where the apricot dominates.
Nectaplum is a cross between a nectarine and a plum. There is only one well known variety of this “Spice Zee” which has the appearance of a nectarine with very intensely flavored, sweet, white flesh.
Peacotum is a peach/apricot/plum hybrid. The current offering in this class, 'Bella Gold' is a home garden cultivar, whose main parent is apricot. There is another interspecific cross that is more peach-like: Tri-Lite, but it lacks apricot in the cross.
Pluerry is a hybrid between a cherry and a plum.
There are now hundreds of varieties of interspecific crosses with names like 'Dinosaur Egg', 'Flavor Queen', 'Splash', 'Dapple Dandy', but sadly, in supermarkets they are often just labeled as plums or apricots which is not very helpful for taste testing.
Growing interspecific hybrids. Some of these hybrids are now available in catalogs or from specialist growers, but a word of warning: look very carefully to see which specific varieties will pollinate each other and make sure that you choose those which are compatible otherwise you may end up with a tree which grows well, flowers well but has no fruit set! This does of course mean that you will in all likelihood end up with two trees, so make sure that you have enough space for them. Many of these crosses have low chilling requirements and flower too early for Owens Valley. (See this link for chill values.) If you're not in Wilkerson, you'll probably have frequent crop loss. Do your homework.
- Author: Jan Rhodes
I love apples…crisp and juicy, sweet and tart, green or red. I eat one daily, sometimes with peanut butter or almond butter… I even add a few raisins and some cinnamon now and then for a special treat. I have four lovely apple trees in my yard – Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Arkansas Black and a Yellow Transparent Apple that someone was going to take to the dump because it wasn't what they wanted. I couldn't bear the thought of a perfectly good apple tree going to the dump, so I planted it and, I have to say, the apples are tasty and early.
With so many apple trees, you would think I could satisfy my apple appetite. And, though I have gotten a few over the years, mostly what I get is tasty chunks after I carve out the coddling moth damage. Ewwww. So, this season, I decided to take action, enough is enough. I water, prune, and dutifully spray these trees…I really should get something more in return.
My winter time research left me daunted – traps and pheromones, recording temperatures and sheesh – too much for someone who likes to keep it simple (you can translate that as “lazy”). So, I remembered my trip to Japan some years back where I paid $6 for an apple (I really wanted one) and realized why they were so expensive when I saw workers in the orchard lovingly placing bags on each apple to prevent insect damage. No wonder those apples looked so perfect and cost so much.
With that idea in mind, my Internet wanderings led me to apple bagging. I found a wealth of information, including video how tos. Seems I am not the only one who thought of this, in fact, lots of growers, backyard and commercial organic orchards are on board. There are even a number of sources for bagging materials of different kinds. There is even an added bonus for embracing this technique. Not only does bagging prevent coddling moth, it can help prevent other apple pests and problems … all without pesticides, fungicides, spraying and other rather bothersome tasks. This practice is most commonly used for apples and pears, and can help guard against such threats as codling moth, curculio, apple maggot, apple scab, and other impediments to a quality harvest. Bagging may even help deter birds and squirrels.
I decided to give it a try, however, since this was an experimental effort, I was determined to use what I had on hand and to try not to bag more than a dozen apples per tree. Why go all out if it might not work, right? The process begins with thinning your apple crop, that is, keeping one baby apple in each cluster. I always thin my apples (same for my grapes). The yield is less, but the apples are bigger and the tree is healthier. Per my research, I thinned my apples and when they reached about half an inch in diameter, I bagged them.
There are a good number of options for bagging – lots of bagging supplies to buy from Internet resources, including bonafide Japanese Apple Bags. And, there are lots of folks who use resealable plastic bags or nylon stockings (really!) I happened to have small (6”x8”) plastic bags (not zip lock) that I use for baked goods and backpacking. They seemed to be a good size for apples, so I used them and fastened them with a twist tie. It didn't take too long and kind of made me chuckle. A real conversation piece when company came by.
Over the summer, I kept my eye on them. With the heat, some moisture collected in the bag, and some articles suggested cutting the bottom corners to let the moisture drain. I decided I didn't want to risk insects getting in, so I opted not to do this. In the end, it did not seem to make a difference. The apples grew and matured as usual. Some articles suggested removing the bags some weeks prior to harvest, I opted not to do this, also – didn't seem to make a difference. I did have to wait a bit longer for the bagged apple to take on their color.
The proof of the pudding, so to speak, came a harvest time – though not all bagged apples escaped coddling moth – a few sneaked through the twist tie area (probably my bad) – I was excited to finally harvest and eat a good number of apples from my very own trees. In chatting with other Master Gardeners, I found that several had also tried this method, all with varying success. So, while it appears that this idea is not new in these parts, I found it to be worth the time and effort, and will definitely employ bagging next season. I do, however, intend to find biodegradable bags for the process.
I have included resources and photos here. Now, excuse me while I munch my home-grown apple!
FRUIT BAGGING OPTIONS
There is an array of options when it comes to bagging fruits. Plastic resealable bags and brown paper bags can be used to protect your fruit and are readily available. Additionally, there are specialized Japanese fruit bags that can be ordered online, or nylon mesh bags that may be better to use for softer fruits. In most cases, the bags can be reused the next year!
Some sources of commercial fruit bags I found:
- http://www.seattletreefruitsociety.com/maggot-barriersArticles about fruit bagging:
- Videos about apple bagging:
Inclusion does imply endorsement by the University. Other sources are available. These are a good place to start./h3>
- Author: Alison Collin
Optimum growing and pollinating conditions lead fruit trees such as apples, peaches and plums to set far more fruit than the tree can sustain to maturity. If all these fruits are left on the tree they will be small and of poor quality and the total weight of such a load on the branches will cause them to break off or split at the crotch, often causing severe damage to the tree. Crowded fruits also encourage pests such as codling moths and diseases such as brown rot and scab. Over-cropping prevents the tree from putting energy into producing flower buds for the following year which will be detrimental to that crop. Apple varieties with biennial patterns of production - those with cycles that produce a bumper crop one year and nothing the next - may be induced to fruit annually by drastically thinning early during the productive year, even to the point of removing all flowers from alternate spurs.
Many trees shed part of their crop naturally, a process known as “the June Drop” but which can begin during May in California. However, this is often not sufficient to produce quality fruit at harvest.
One of the most psychologically challenging tasks that a gardener faces is removing perfectly healthy fruit (sometimes by the bucketful) in order to leave more manageable numbers. The earlier in the season that the surplus fruits are removed, the larger the individual remaining fruits will become. It takes some seasons of experience to judge how many fruits to remove but a steely resolve will be amply rewarded. The largest fruit in any cluster is usually left, unless it is obviously damaged.
Apples: These should be thinned to one or two fruits per cluster depending on variety and the overall set of flowers. One fruit per spur 6-8 inches apart is the aim but, if the overall crop is light, clusters of two may be left. Realistically the fruit often grows in frustrating patterns with groups of 5 beautiful apples on one spur and then several spurs with no really good fruits forcing a decision as to whether or not to leave two fruits on the good spur! Fruitlets are removed using scissors or other fine cutters which can reach inside the cluster to the stem. These can be cut close to the fruit and the little stem may be left without any detrimental effect. It is vital not to just pull on the fruit since this will often drag the whole spur off the branch. Some gardeners grasp the stem of the fruit between their first two fingers and “roll” the fruit off with their thumb. There are usually a variety of sizes and shapes in each cluster so begin by removing the small, damaged and misshapen ones first. Then there is the agonizing decision of which of the remaining two perfect fruit to leave. I find that usually one has a slightly thicker stem than its partner so I would leave that. In order to get the best sized fruit at harvest the ideal leaf to fruit ratio for apples would be around 75:1 for early varieties down to 40:1 for the later ones, but who's counting!
Peaches: The same basic principles apply but a little more space is usually left between fruit – about 6- 9 inches. However they grow much tighter to the stem and are best removed by grasping the fruit firmly and twisting it round until it detaches. For those just out of reach, I have found that barbecue tongs (the sort with a looped end) make an efficient removal tool.
Plums: Thin to about 3-4 inches apart. Overloaded plums will naturally drop fruit at the stone hardening stage, so sometimes growers thin in two stages; lightly when the fruits are small, and then finally once the natural dropping has ceased.
Cherries and Nuts are not usually thinned.
Pears: Often thin themselves, but if extra thinning is needed in order to end up with one pear per spur, the time to do this is when the fruitlets begin to turn downwards.
Thinning is undoubtedly a rather tedious business, but when harvest time comes and the fruits are large, lush and healthy, you will be so pleased that you made the effort.