Looking for easy-to-grow trees for your home orchard? Choose from these apple, peach, pear, plum, and cherry varieties that...
Long-term storage of unprocessed fruit is a possibility only for apples and pears. Certain varieties of apple will store for up to eight months and some pears can be stored for about four months. If you are looking for fruit that will keep through winter, you should check the storage information on the variety pages carefully to make sure that the variety is known to store well. A few of the many varieties we recommend for storage are Winecrisp, Goldrush, Honeycrisp, Sundance, and Newtown Pippin.
Remember, all apples are different. Some apple varieties actually taste better after a period in storage. This is often true of late apples that are high in acid when they first come off the tree. These typically mellow out and develop richer flavor profiles some weeks after picking. Some apples will shrivel as they slowly lose moisture in storage, but will remain otherwise firm and flavorful. Strangely enough, we call these “shrivelers.”
The best place to store fruit is in refrigeration, with a temperature range of 34-36°F. If this is not a possibility, you can also get good results from the cool, humid climate in your (unheated) basement or root cellar. Either way, there are a few other steps you should take to safely preserve your fruit.
- Fruit should be stored in a crate or similar container. Plastic bags and buckets do not allow sufficient airflow, and fruit will rot quickly.
- The crates should be set slightly away from the wall and the bottom crate should be raised slightly from the floor using pallets or stable planks of wood. This arrangement supports airflow and helps protect the fruit from rodents.
- If rodents are an issue, you should consider setting traps or bait! Otherwise your crates of apples might be a mush of chewed up scraps and droppings by December .
- Fruit does not usually need to be washed before storage, but if you do wash it, make sure it is completely dry before setting it in storage.
- Do not store fruit with visible bruises or disease damage. These can cause rot to spread through the surrounding fruit. All it takes is one bad apple!
Of course, you can also “store” your fruit by canning it, freezing it, dehydrating it, or making it into jam, jelly, or butter. Your winter self will thank you.
A Special Note on Pears
Many people are not aware that the majority of pears need to be ripened after picking. (Two exceptions are Gem and Sunrise.) This is because pears ripen from the inside out rather than from the outside in.
Commercial growers will use a pressure test to determine when a pear is ready for picking, but there is a simple test that you can do without any fancy science: Cup the calyx end (the bottom) of a pear gently in the palm of your hand and slowly tilt it upward. If the stem snaps at about 45 degrees, the pear is ready to be picked for storage. If the stem snaps at about 20-30 degrees, the pear is ready for picking and eating, but too ripe for storage. Test your pears every day to make sure you don’t leave them on the tree too long.
Pears that have been picked for storage will need to be brought out and allowed to rest at room temperature for a couple of days in order to soften. The best pear varieties for storage include Bartlett, Magness, Blake’s Pride, Seckel, and Shenandoah.
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