Gardens once contained ancient apple and pear trees that had been there for generations, so everyone knew when to pick the fruit and how to keep it.
But fashions changed during the “designer” years and now people have gone back to growing fruit, which means a lot of uncertainty about garden crops.
The season starts with windfalls. Only full-sized fruit is worth eating and it needs using quickly, as bruising means it will soon go rotten.
A lot of windfalls have maggots inside so are usually used for cooking. Just cut out the nasty bits and any you can’t use instantly can be stewed and frozen.
The cream of the crop is the perfect fruit that remains on the tree to full term. Ideally, you need to know which variety you’re growing, as each has its own best picking date.
If you don’t know, send some to the RHS (if you are a member) for identification or take a few to an apple day event.
As soon as the first apples seem to reach full size and colour, try one. If it parts company easily with the branch when you lift it gently in the palm of your hand, it’s ready to pick.
Otherwise, wait another week and try again. Or cut one open. If the pips are brown, it’s ripe.
Early varieties of dessert apples ripen between late July and early September and are best eaten virtually from the tree.
Most other eaters and a few cookers are ready in October. Any apples that haven’t ripened by mid to late October are normally picked then anyway.
They need to be stored under cover in a cool, steady temperature.
When it comes to pears, things are trickier. In most cases, you have to pick and store them, then bring them into a warm room to ripen.
Eat them when they start feeling soft – if you leave them too long they go bad. Early varieties are ready in September and the rest need picking in about mid-October.
The best way to store apples and pears is in the salad drawer of the fridge or a layer deep in stacking trays in a brick or concrete garage with no windows or gaps.
Try to use any pears by Christmas and if you haven’t finished them all by then, cook and freeze them.
Take your pick
Discovery – a popular apple that ripens from late July onwards. Ideal straight from the tree.
George Cave – Ready to eat from the tree August to September.
Egremont Russet – small and crisp, ready in September.
Worcester Pearmain – Leave on the tree to ripen fully. Ready from September to October.
Bramley’s Seedling – a cooking apple that is ready mid-October. It…