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Harvest time for pipfruit

The time has finally arrived: The first ripe apples and pears are ready for harvesting. It is important to identify the right time for harvesting since sugar and acid only take on balanced proportions when apples and pears are fully ripe.

The first clue that an apple is ripe is that it takes on the colour typical to its variety. The 'twist test' is another way to check ripeness. If you gently twist the fruit at the stalk it should come away from the branch easily. Finally, you should check whether the pips have turned brown. The taste test isn't actually that useful for pipfruit. Pears need a few days after they have been picked to unleash their aroma and are therefore best harvested when they are hard. Many apple varieties, too - such as Jonagold, for example - don't taste really great unless stored for several weeks before being eaten.

A cool, dark room with good humidity is ideal for storing pip fruit. Preferably, it should be possible to ventilate the room where the fruit is being stored. You can improve poor humidity by placing containers of water in the room.

When storing fruit, make sure that apples and pears do not have any dents or traces of insect damage and have not gone bad. Rotten pip fruit can 'infect' other fruit in its vicinity, this is because rotten fruit emits ethylene’s which ripen the other apples or pears more quickly and may cause them to spoil.

The fruit should either be stored in fruit racks or in flat boxes. The boxes can be lined with wood shavings or corrugated paper. In the case of taller boxes, placing corrugated card between the individual layers of fruit to prevent dents. If the boxes are covered with perforated film the fruit cannot dry out as quickly. You can also store the fruit in perforated polythene bags. In all cases, stored pip fruit should be checked on a regular basis so that rotten apples or pears can be removed quickly.

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