Peter Cun­dall:

On how leav­ing fruit to hang can be fruit­ful.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING -

I al­ways leave a big patch of black­ber­ries to thrive in one cor­ner of our lit­tle prop­erty. It’s true they are a no­to­ri­ous weed but they serve a dou­ble pur­pose.

We have sev­eral fam­i­lies of beau­ti­ful, to­tally harm­less Eastern-barred bandi­coots that wan­der through our gar­den each night and dense black­berry clumps pro­vide a per­fect safe haven against ma­raud­ing cats and dogs.

For the past three weeks th­ese bushes have been laden with the big­gest, juici­est and sweet­est berries I’ve ever seen, cer­tainly be­cause of a very wet spring.

Oddly enough, I also grow those vig­or­ous, thorn­less black­berry plants which pro­duce huge berries, but are nowhere near as sweet as their wild rel­a­tives.

Au­tumn is the great fruit har­vest­ing time and home gar­den­ers have a huge ad­van­tage. We can pick most fruit when at its most per­fect stage of ma­tu­rity or ripeness. For ex­am­ple, most stone fruits such as plums, peaches, nec­tarines must

Don’t be fooled when bunches of ta­ble grapes take on a good colour while still hang­ing

be left to hang un­til fully ripe. Same with grapes. That’s when they de­velop full, rich flavours, max­i­mum juici­ness and sweet­ness. If picked too early, th­ese small fruits may soften, but never be­come sweeter or tastier.

This is why so much stone fruit bought at ma­jor su­per­mar­kets can be rel­a­tively taste­less. It’s be­cause many com­mer­cial grow­ers are forced to har­vest too early so their fruit trav­els bet­ter, with a longer shelf life.

Euro­pean plums are now ripen­ing fast and I’m pre­pared to wait un­til the skins of some, es­pe­cially Golden Drop, Golden Gage and Jef­fer­son be­come slightly wrin­kled and soft. That’s when flavour is truly mag­nif­i­cent.

Don’t be fooled when bunches of ta­ble grapes take on a good colour while still hang­ing. Hes­i­tate be­fore snip­ping them off be­cause if un­ripe and sour they re­main so and you’ve wasted your crop.

Many ta­ble grape va­ri­eties, es­pe­cially in cool dis­tricts, need a long sea­son in or­der to fully sugar-up.

I’m a ded­i­cated sam­pler and it’s no big deal to snap off the odd grape to check for sweet­ness.

The most richly-flavoured wine grapes are usu­ally grown in cool dis­tricts where har­vest­ing can of­ten be de­lib­er­ately de­layed un­til late au­tumn. It is this long, slow pe­riod of gen­tle ripen­ing which en­sures un­be­liev­ably in­tense flavours de­velop.

Ap­ples and pears are dif­fer­ent be­cause if picked while ma­ture, but still un­ripe, most con­tinue to sweeten over the fol­low­ing days or weeks. As ap­ples and pears ap­proach ma­tu­rity, the cells where stalk-tips cling to trees start to de­te­ri­o­rate, weak­en­ing the link and caus­ing a few wind-falls. That’s a sign that they are ready to be picked and there’s a trick to do­ing this job prop­erly.

When an ap­ple or pear is lifted or piv­oted up­wards, then im­me­di­ately comes away eas­ily with a faint click, stalk in­tact, it is ready. If too hard to pull off eas­ily, they are still im­ma­ture, so leave to hang.

Pears are never al­lowed to fully ripen on trees be­cause they turn mushy and taste­less. In fact most pears are still hard and rel­a­tively taste­less when picked, but soften and sweeten to per­fec­tion within a few days of be­ing stored in a cool place.

Test stored pears by pulling on stalks which slip out eas­ily when fully ripe. Nashi-fruit or Asian pears can be left hang­ing un­til fully flavoured and aro­matic.

Then, while still crispy they can be har­vested for stor­age in plas­tic bags in the fridge or even eaten di­rectly from the tree.

Some ap­ple va­ri­eties, such as Graven­stein, Spar­tan, Golden De­li­cious and Lady-in-the-Snow can be eaten straight from trees. Oth­ers such as Cox’s Orange Pip­pin, Jonathan, Jon­agold and Pink Lady are best picked while still hard and sour, then fin­ish ripen­ing in­doors over the next week or so. Late bear­ing ap­ples such as Sturmer Pip­pin and Red Fuji have lit­tle flavour or sweet­ness when har­vested, but after stor­age, some­times for weeks, de­velop amaz­ing, ut­terly re­fresh­ing flavours.

And prob­a­bly the most ver­sa­tile of all dessert-cook­ing ap­ples, Aus­tralia’s heavy­crop­ping Granny Smith can be steadily har­vested di­rectly from trees from late March un­til early July. No won­der it’s among the world’s most sought-after va­ri­ety.

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