Apples and Pears
One of the great treats of September is an early morning walk through the orchard. With a light mist in the air, the spider webs like spun silver with their coating of dew and the trees heavy with red, green and golden apples it is like stepping into a real time version of Samuel Palmers visionary painting "The Magic Apple Tree".
The visual feast can be enjoyed at any time but the gastronomic one may have to be deferred for a little longer, depending on the variety in hand. Apples and pears are not necessarily ready to eat when they appear to be and part of the skill in fruit growing is timing of picking and then post harvest treatment.
Pears are particularly demanding. Cultivars such as "Gorham" and "Williams Bon Chretien" that ripen early i.e. July-September, should never be allowed to ripen on the tree otherwise they may well become "mealy" in the centre. The best test for readiness to pick is to lift the fruit slightly and then twist it gently on the stalk; if it is ready it will come away in the hand. Early pears will ripen rapidly off the tree and need careful monitoring for ripeness, late season cultivars such as Conference, and Doyenne du Comice will still be hard at picking but will eventually ripen. Very late cultivars, "Catillac" etc, should be left on the tree until the first frosts threaten and then can all be picked at once.
Apples are slightly less fussy but similar general principles apply. Equally storage requirements for both are the same. Commercially this is a sophisticated science but for the amateur it boils down to keep 'em cool(around 7C if possible) keep 'em dark, keep 'em frost free, keep the air circulating and pick over regularly to remove any bad apples because, as we all know, it only takes one to spoil the barrel!
Jim Buckland, Gardens Manager @jimwestdean