Source: Iowa State Extension
Fruit trees can provide an abundance of nutritious, high quality, fresh fruit during the growing season. Surplus fruit can be preserved by freezing, canning, drying, or making preserves, juice, or wine. However, it can be difficult to know when to harvest them for full flavor and value.
ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your questions about harvesting commonly grown tree fruits such as plums, apricots, peaches and more. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As plums approach maturity, the fruit develop their characteristic color. The fruit of European or domestic cultivars (‘Stanley,’ ‘Damson’ and ‘Mount Royal’) change from green to greenish blue, then to dark blue or purple. The ripened fruit color of most hybrid plums (‘Underwood,’ ‘Alderman,’ ‘Toka’ and ‘Superior’) varies from red to burgundy red. Color, however, should not be the sole basis for harvesting plums. As they ripen, plums begin to soften, especially at the tip end. They also develop their characteristic flavor.
Harvest and handle plums carefully. The fruit can be stored for approximately two to three weeks at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent.
Harvest apricots when the fruit develop their characteristic color and begin to soften. When ripe, the fruit of ‘Moongold’ are golden yellow. The ripe fruit of ‘Sungold’ and ‘Moorpark’ are yellow with an orangish red blush.
Handle the fruit carefully to prevent bruising. Ideal storage conditions for apricots are a temperature near 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. Properly stored fruit have a storage life of one to two weeks.
Harvest peaches when the base or ground color changes from green to cream or light yellow. (Most peach cultivars develop a reddish blush. However, the reddish coloration is not a good indicator of maturity.) Firmness is another sign of maturity. Ripe fruit are slightly less firm. Firmness can be determined by gently squeezing a fruit with your fingers. If the fruit gives slightly, it’s ready to harvest.
When harvesting, handle the fruit carefully to prevent bruising. Store peaches immediately at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. Peaches can be successfully stored for two to three weeks.