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When Fruit is Fit to Pick.
can hope to retain
the consumer direct, then he this market only by sending in the products in the very finest dessert condition. Such consumers are
generally willing to pay a sufficient extra price for the advantage of having the fruit taken from the plant when it is in its highest state of edible quality. Most serious mistakes are constantly made in the picking of blackberries, for example. It is ordinarily considered that when the berries are black they are ripe, but such is not the case. They are fully ripe only when they shake from the bushes readily, and when they are soft and free from sharp acidity. In this condition blackberries can be handled direct to the consumers in the local market which is only a few miles away; but they could not be shipped by rail. The strawberry is ordinarily picked for market when only a portion of the berry is really ripe, and when the organic acids are still too sharp and austere for the dessert. A strawberry which has a green or white tip is not yet in fit condition to pick, if one is expecting to reach a really good market.
With the tree-fruits, it may be said that in general the samples keep longest when they are picked greenest, but they suffer thereby in point of quality. There are no well-marked lines between greenness or immaturity, ripeness or full maturity, and over maturity and decay. The one stage passes into the other insensibly, and it is a part of the normal chemical history of the fruit that it should begin an incipient breaking down and disorganiza
tion of tissue as soon as the ripening process is thoroughly complete. It will be seen, therefore, that the riper the fruit, the more nearly it approaches this period of disorganization, and the sooner the breaking down of the tissues may be expected to begin. When the fruit is picked very green, however, this period of natural disorganization is comparatively remote. On the other hand, fruits which are picked very green are not yet arrived at their most edible stage, and unless they are kept in the most favorable conditions, they are very likely to
shrivel and to become unmarketable.
In the case of apples, it is generally best to pick them, if they are to be stored or exported, just as they have arrived at their full size and when they have attained only a part of their full color. Overripe or fully ripe fruits must be sent to the market at once, or else they must be kept in artificial cold storage in order to thoroughly stop the chemical processes within the fruit, and when they are taken from storage they are very likely to soon decay. Apples which are picked slightly green, however, generally continue to keep well after being taken from cold storage. This was demonstrated at the World's Fair at Chicago, at which New York apples taken from cold storage remained upon the shelves in good condition for several weeks.*
Pears, on the other hand, nearly always lose quality by fully ripening upon the tree. The cells of the fruit fill up with gritty mineral matter, much
*Annals Hort. for 1893, 67.
Ripening of Pears.
to the detriment of texture. sidered that the best time to
It is ordinarily con
pick a pear of any
variety is just as soon as it reaches its full size and before it has begun to color. In most varieties, this stage is pretty well indicated by the facility with which the fruit stem parts from the spur. The pear is taken in the hollow of the hand and turned up; if the stem snaps off from the spur at its point of articulation, the fruit is generally considered to be ripe enough to pick. The pears are then ripened under cover. The best place in which to ripen them is a rather cool but dry room, like a loft or a chamber. Here they are piled upon the floor or upon racks, and they should not lie, for the best results, more than three or four pears deep. If they are piled too deep, the lower ones are likely to be indented by the weight of those above them. The room should be kept fairly close. If there is too much circulation of air, and if the temperature is high, the pears ripen too quickly, and often shrivel. A Bartlett pear, when properly picked and handled, ordinarily requires a full week in which to ripen up to its best quality, and the ripening process may often be continued considerably longer than this by picking the fruit early and keeping it cool. Kieffers, especially if grown in the north, seem to ripen best if they are stored in bulk, like beans, two or three feet deep, or even in barrels, and the ripening process is ordinarily two to three weeks long. If they are given this long time in which to mature, the quality may be
expected to be very much better than it is in the general run of samples.
A peach is fit to pick when it is full grown and has begun to develop its characteristic color. Peaches and apricots do not ordinarily color up well after they are picked, although plums usually will do so, especially the Japanese plums, which may be picked very green and yet develop a high color. It is very difficult to describe that period of maturity at which a peach is ready for picking. An experienced picker will take the fruit softly in his hands and press the ball of his thumb very lightly upon the side, and if the fruit has a somewhat springy feeling, it is ready to take off the tree. This pressure is never sufficient to leave any mark upon the fruit. Pinching a peach will almost always spoil it. If the peach is too green, it will feel hard and stone-like. If it is too soft, it will simply indent, and will not have the elastic feeling which is mentioned.
In the case of cherries and plums, it is very important that the fruits be picked just before they have reached their condition of most edible quality. This is largely because the fruit-rot fun gus is very likely to destroy the fruits at the time. of their ripening, especially upon those varieties which are particularly subject to the disorder. Amongst plums, the Lombard is one of the most seriously attacked; and amongst cherries, nearly all the white-fleshed ones, like Governor Wood and Napoleon, are greatly subject to injury. If the
weather at picking time gives promise of being close and warm or muggy, then it is exceedingly important that the fruit should be picked early. In sweet cherries, a delay of a few hours will sometimes result in the loss of an entire crop from the fruit-rot fungus. Cherries and plums should always be picked, if possible, when they are perfectly dry. This is especially true of the sweet cherries. If they are picked when they are wet, and put into boxes or baskets in this condition, they will be almost certain to decay before reaching the market, unless the weather remains very cool.
This fruit-rot fungus is very serious upon many stone fruits. In cherries, "the losses from this disease which have come under my observation are invariably the result of letting the fruit hang on the trees till ripe, and then the rot is very active; but cherries should be picked a few days before ripe, before they soften, and then the rot does not seriously affect them. An illustration of this point, which is a most important one, was brought to my notice the present season. The last week of June, eastern New York, was very hot and close, with showers every day or two. The cherries were then ripening, and the conditions were favorable for the rot to spread. In one orchard, from which several tons of cherries were shipped that week, there was not more than one hundred and fifty pounds destroyed by the rot, while in another orchard a few miles distant at least ten tons of the same varieties were ruined on the trees. In the first