The best fruit is always the crop you pick and pop straight into your mouth. Given kind weather and a certain amount of skill on the gardener’s part, however, there should be sufficient fruit not only
to supply the kitchen but also to store for later use.
Fruit should be properly ripe before it is harvested for immediate use. There is little point in picking it early and leaving it to ripen – it will always ripen better on the stem. Fruit for storing should be mature and ripe – but do not pick at the very peak of ripeness, aim for just a little before. This is a matter of judgement and will come with experience. The time to pick is when the fruit comes away easily in the hand. Apples, for example, will come free with a little twist of the wrist, while raspberries will come away when twisted with the fingers.
With the exception of cane fruit, such as raspberries and blackberries, most fruit is picked with the stalks left on. Normally fruit is picked individually, but the various types of currant and grapes are usually picked in bunches. Pick fruit during dry weather and be careful not to bruise or otherwise damage it.
On the whole, the only types of fruit that
can be satisfactorily stored without some method of preservation are apples, pears and quinces, and it is worth remembering that some varieties of fruit store better than
others. ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apples, for example, can be kept until spring, but ‘Beauty of Bath’ apples have to be eaten right away, because they last not much longer than a week. As a general rule, early maturing apples do not store, but later ones do.
Keep only fruit that is in perfect condition and throw out any that are marked or beginning to rot. Place the apples or pears in trays separated with paper so that they do not touch each other. Place the trays in a cool, dark place. Check periodically and throw out any fruit that is beginning to rot. Some apples will shrivel in storage and it is better to wrap these individually in greaseproof paper or to place several in a polythene (plastic) bag that has a few small holes in it.
Do not place quinces close to apples and pears because the strong aroma will taint the other fruit. Store quinces in open trays.
It is possible to freeze most fruit. However, although the taste will remain, many will lose their “solid” appearance when thawed and are, therefore, better used for cooking than for eating raw. Soft fruits are the
easiest to freeze, but it is also possible to freeze apples, although it is best to cut them up or even cook and purée them before freezing.
Again, only choose sound fruit. Place the fruit on trays so that they are not touching each other and then put them in the freezer. Once frozen, they can be put into a bag. The fruit can be put straight into a bag before freezing, but they are likely to stick together and so the whole batch will have to be used at once. If you have no room for trays, split the fruit up into small usable quantities and place each batch of fruit in an individual bag.
Freezing is a modern method of preserving fruit, but there are also a number of traditional ways. Some fruits, such as apples and pears, can be dried while others, such as plums and gooseberries, can be bottled. Another way is to turn the fruit into chutneys or jams. All these methods are dealt with in good cookery books.
Apples, pears and quinces
Store in a cool place for up
to 12 months, depending
on the variety.
All other fruit
Eat immediately or freeze.
Alternatively, preserve fruit by bottling
or making into jam. Fruit can be kept
for up to 12 months, depending on
the method of preservation
that has been used.