Everything’s just peachy here in SE Minnesota, especially the peach crop we’ve been eating and preserving from our Siberian-type seedling trees. Here’s what they look like – you’ll have to imagine the delectable rush of biting into one of these juicy delights as there’s no virtual way to convey the luxurious flavor and aroma. You can see the full trees near the bottom of our website’s “Eat Locally Year-Round” page.
Not growing up with peaches in the upper Midwest, we’ve learned by trial and error how to pick a tree-ripened fruit that is perfection. Color is an early indicator but shading on individual fruits can lessen the blush, making color picking difficult. It works better to pick by “feel”. When the peach is ready for picking it will release from the tree easily with a slight twist or tug. Rather than just yanking on fruits, first gently press them on the “shoulder” next to the stem using your thumb. If the flesh is slightly yielding and not rock hard, go ahead and give the fruit a tug and it should come off the tree. Of course, if you’ve waited too long, the fruit will be quite soft and there will probably already be some fruit on the ground. Our chickens have managed to help themselves to a few fruits, but not very many, since we’ve been circling the tree daily like buzzards, waiting for the crop to ripen. You should plan to eat the softest fruits right away as they won’t last. Better yet, bite into one right out in the orchard and let the juice drip down your chin to have an authentic peach experience!
For the fruit that’s out of reach it’s convenient to have a picking tool. We started out with one of those fruit pickers – a small wire basket with numerous bent wire “fingers” – that is mounted on a long pole. We don’t like this tool at all; it’s too top-heavy, too large in diameter, and too awkward. It catches on branches, damaging the tree. It knocks down about as many fruits as end up in the basket. When there’s more than one fruit in the basket it becomes even more difficult to maneuver. So we came up with a homemade tool that works better, especially with fragile fruit like peaches and plums. We call it the Fruit Loop.
It’s a piece of galvanized #9 wire bent as shown in the photo. A long tube was sewn from some heavy, scrap fabric and threaded onto the wire. Then the fruit loop was attached to an old extension pole with a couple of stainless steel hose clamps. It works quite well at letting the fruit gently down the chute to the ground or directly into a basket.
Another tool that we use is a commercially made “grabber” – the EZ Reacher by Arcoa Industries in San Marcos, CA.
We bought this a few years ago from the local farm supply store and have used it mostly for picking up hickory nuts in the woods where they often seem to fall in bramble patches or other out-of-reach spots. But it also works well for peaches (except for the largest fruits – the rubber cups could be a bit larger), and it’s really great for plums, pears, and crab apples. It doesn’t have a very long reach (ours is 32 inches), but with a free-standing ladder most of the tree is accessible. When the tool is “closed” it has a very narrow profile which makes it easy to reach into the tree. This tool could most likely be modified with a longer handle and the trigger grip could be replaced with a pull cord if someone wanted to reach a bit farther, especially without a ladder. We’ve seen longer versions online that are 48 inches long. Maybe there’s already a model with adjustable extension, but we’ve not come across one yet. Still, at under $20, the “grabber” is a handy addition to our harvesting tool kit for our small orchard of primarily semi-dwarf stock.