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Harvest and Postharvest

Ripening

Ripening differs among different types of fruits. In many species such as berries, stone fruits, nuts, figs, and grapes, ripening occurs prior to harvest. In others, such as pear, quince, late apples, persimmons, and European pears ripening takes place largely or entirely after harvest—they must not be tree-ripened. Fruit softens after it is picked. Some pears may change ground or skin color.

Asian pears ripen best on the tree. Pick them when skin turns yellow or when they taste sweet. Apples can be tree-ripened, but most are picked earlier and ripened. When left on the tree, they tend to drop badly before harvest and they can become mealy and of poor quality. After apples mature, the starch must change to sugar for optimum flavor.

Please see: 8 ways to determine apple harvest time

Harvesting

Fruit should be harvested when it is ready to pick or mature. Harvesting at the time of optimum maturity will produce the best quality fruit. Harvesting when fruit is cool (early morning) and cooling the fruit as soon as possible promotes quality and shelf life.

Harvest most fruits by twisting and lifting the fruit up, not by pulling straight down from the spur or branch. Proper technique is important for minimizing bruises and injuries. Place fruits gently in your harvesting container. Do not just drop them in. Softer fruits require more careful handling to avoid bruises, but firmer fruits at harvest require more careful handling to avoid skin punctures.

Please see: 10 Commandments of harvest (for apples)

Postharvest Handling and Storage

Fruit remains alive and respires after it is harvested. Lowering storage temperatures will slow the respiration rate and enzymatic activity of the fruit and prolong storage life. Freezing damages fruit.

Objectives in good harvesting and handling practices are:

  • Harvest when fruit is mature
  • Place fruit in optimum conditions for maximum storage life
  • Be able to ripen fruit to full quality

Optimum temperatures to ensure longer storage life vary among commodities. Important storage principles are:

  • Fruit stored at higher temperatures respire more than at lower temperatures. Heat/respiration generated at 0°C may be 1/10 of that generated at 15.5°C.
  • Time-temperature effects are dramatic: apples ripen in 3 days at 21.1°C and 30 days at -1 °C.
  • High relative humidity usually promotes storage life and fruit quality.

There are many methods for providing fruit storage. The goal is to do whatever is possible and practical to meet optimum storage requirements and ensure high fruit quality. Methods include:

  • Refrigeration (large or small)
  • Cellars, basements
  • Store outside (protect from sun, rain, rodents, etc.)
  • Air conditioners, swamp coolers, under tarps
  • Process, freeze, can, and/or dehydrate for home use
  • Controlled atmosphere (commercial)

Please see:10 Commandments of fruit storage