POP TIPS: harvest of early summer tree fruits

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Phil Forsyth

Jul 8, 2022, 8:46:08 AMJul 8
to Philadelphia Orchard Group
Philly Orchardists,

After years of careful cultivation and year-round attention to orchard maintenance, it may finally be time to harvest from your fruit trees! It is often quite simple to tell when fruits are ready, as ripe fruits are well-colored and are easily plucked off the spur, with little resistance. The ground color, or the color of the fruit's skin disregarding any red areas, is often a good way to determine whether or not the fruit is ready to be harvested. 

2022 NOTE: Unfortunately, many stone fruits were hit by the late frost this spring and thus have had reduced or even no fruitset.  This is especially true of Japanese plums and apricots, but also some peaches and almonds.  

Need to harvest fruit from tall trees?  Pole pickers are available for borrowing through POP's partnership with the West Philly Tool Library.  



Most apricots ripen in late June or early July.  Apricots taste best when left to ripen completely on the tree. They will change from a green color to a yellowish orange and feel slightly soft. The fruit can be stored 1-3 weeks in a cool place. to prevent bruising or mold it is best to store them in a single layer.  



Most peach varieties ripen in July.  Peaches should be harvested when the fruits look fully ripe and no longer have green color on the skin. Depending on the cultivar, a peach may appear any shade between yellow and red when it's ready for harvesting. 

Peaches are a favorite of squirrels. Consider harvesting slightly early and letting the fruits ripen indoors at room temperature to save them from these common urban pests.


Most plum varieties ripen in July and August.  Plums will change in color as they ripen depending on the variety of fruit. Some will change from greenish-blue to a deep purple while others can change from yellow to red so it is important to know what variety you have growing. There are even a few varieties that are yellow when ripe!  Japanese varieties are harvested and ripened off the tree while European plums are ready to harvest when the fruit begins to soften. When picking plumsgently grasp the fruit and twist it from its stem. They are best stored at room temperature in a drycool place.


With the mild winter we had, many fig trees will bear an early 'Breba' crop that ripens sometime in July.  The primary fig crop starts generally ripening in late August or September. Figs should be left to ripen mostly on the tree and will not ripen much off the tree. Unripe figs are green, but different varieties ripen to shades of red, purple, brown, yellow, and some even stay green!  The neck of the fruit will soften and wilt slightly and the fruit will hang down. It is best to pick the fruit with some of the stem attached to delay spoilage. Figs will bruise easily so it is important to handle with care and not pack them tightly on top of one another. 

One common problem with picking fruit is accessibility. Often fruits in trees are too high to pick from the ground. A fruit picker is a good investment to avoid this problem. Fruit pickers are poles with baskets on the end which allow you to pluck off high fruits and capture 
 in the basket.  The West Philly Tool Library has some fruit pickers available for borrowing or see links below for purchasing. 

Wearable fruit picking bags or buckets allow you to quickly and efficiently store your fruit as it is being picked.

Purchase fruit picking bags/buckets:

Purchase a fruit picker:
More Info: 

This edition of POP TIPS originally prepared 
by Phil Forsyth and Robyn Mello 
with assistance from POP interns Sophia Taylor and Tina Kalakay.

Phil Forsyth, Co-Executive Director
Philadelphia Orchard Project
Pronouns: he/him

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