University of Vermont Extension
Summer (late) News
Department of Plant and Soil Science
USING TREE FRUITS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
One of the joyous parts to the
latter half of summer, and early fall, is the abundance of tree fruits— cherries,
plums, peaches, pears, and apples. In
addition to many recipes, there are variations on fresh eating, and ways to
save fruits for later.
Cherries are usually the first tree fruits to ripen,
from late June through late July, depending on area and cultivar (cultivated
variety). Generally the sour cherries ripen about 2 to 3 weeks
later than the sweet cherries. Ripe
cherries, similar to apples, peaches, and pears, develop a characteristic color
and blush which you’ll soon learn. If
picking your own, be sure to pick them before their skins crack, and leave the
stems on the fruits.
frozen, or dried—make great, low calorie snacks. Fresh they’ll last 4 to 7 days in the
refrigerator. Frozen they’ll last up to
a year. Similar to blueberries and some other fruits, they are loaded with
vitamin A and beta-carotene, plus antioxidants.
If drying, as in a dehyator, pit and cut large ones in half first.
cherries are the best to freeze, as they won’t darken as will the light
ones. Freeze whole, or with sugar or in
syrup. Ascorbic acid in a syrup helps
prevent browning of the light cherries.
Easiest is to pit first, then freeze on rimmed cookie sheets prior to
packing for freezing. This way they can
be removed as needed, and won’t be frozen into a block.
generally ripen between mid July to late September. Ripe plums, similar to
blueberries and grapes become
covered with a powdery white “bloom”. If
picking your own,
fruit should separate from the
branch easily and be sweet and juicy to eat. Only Japanese plums
may benefit from picking a short
time before they are tree-ripe; allow them to ripen in a cool, but not cold,
room for a few days before eating.
Watch, too, for plum crosses with apricots such as plumcots.
addition to fresh eating, plums make excellent dessert sauce, pie, coffee cake,
and preserves. They can be frozen both raw and cooked, or freeze the tangy
juice for a punch base. Mix this juice with ginger ale for a refreshing winter punch.
ripen in the northeastern states from mid July to mid September,
(basically a peach without the fuzzy skin) beginning in late July. If
picking your own, pick peaches just before
ripe and they'll still soften a bit, similar to pears and late apples.
Or pick ripe if eating fresh within days. As with other tree fruits,
leave the stem on
the fruit. Ripe peaches last 3 to 5 days
in the refrigerator.
you can't use your peaches and nectarines right away, keep them in a cool place
such as a refrigerator or cool basement. In a warm room they continue to ripen
and soon spoil. Shortcake, pie, cobbler, and salads abound when peaches are in
season, and you can make fresh peach pie, sundaes, milkshakes, or ice cream. Preserve them in jams, conserves, butters,
chutneys, and pickles, or even dry them. Though most cultivars can be frozen,
the flavor and consistency are usually better when they are canned.
ripen in most northeastern areas between mid-August and late September, as with
other fruits depending on area and cultivar.
If picking your own, similar to peaches pick just before ripe. If you leave pears until they are perfectly
ripe to pick, they develop hard, gritty cells in the flesh and begin to rot
inside, since they ripen from the inside out. Fruit should separate
easily from the tree with a
slight upward twist. Pick your pears with extreme care, because if you
even slightly damage the delicate
skin, the fruit will spoil quickly.
keep best in home storage if you wrap each one in tissue paper or newspaper and
them in a cool place free from odors. They will be ready to eat anytime from a
week to a couple of months later, depending on the kind. Keep in a pantry or
room temperature one to four days to ripen, then store up to a week in the
refrigerator. They’ll last up to a year
For the best, full, mellow flavor
allow them to ripen at room temperature for a few days after you remove them from
cold storage. If you push on the stem end with your thumb and it makes a slight
dent, the fruit is ready to eat.
typically southern use of pears is “honey,” which combines them with lemons,
limes, ginger, or coconut. Other ways to
eat fresh are to cut in halves, topping with vanilla ice cream, chocolate,
whipped cream, and what else-- a fresh cherry!
Then there are tasty pear conserves, chutneys, pickles, butters and
nectars. In Europe, large amounts are pressed into an alcoholic cider called
“Perry”, which is found here in some specialty beverage or food outlets.
Freezing pears is easy. Peel, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds.
Place in a pot of water with lemon juice to retard fruit browning. Use half a squeezed lemon for every 4 cups of
pear slices, or a fruit preservative like ascorbic acid, according to label
directions. Add half to 2/3 cup sugar to
help preserve as well. Then place in
containers, or plastic freezer bags laid flat with air squeezed out before
are the last major tree fruit to ripen, with cultivars from late August to
November, depending on area. If picking
your own, ripe apples have a characteristic blush, separate easily from the
tree (leave stems on), and when cut open you’ll see brown seeds. Color when ripe is not necessarily red, as
some of the best-flavored apples are yellow, green, or russet brown. “Winter” (late-ripening) apples need to stay
on the trees for a few weeks after they begin to show color in order to develop
their flavor. A few light frosts don’t hurt these.
ripe apples, wash and refrigerate, and they usually will last from 4 to 6
weeks. Early-ripening apples, and those
described as “soft”, generally don’t store well. Refrigerate soon after
picking, as apples will ripen 6
or more times faster if left at room temperature.
If slicing, they’ll rapidly turn
brown, except for a few cultivars. To
delay this, soak slices in a mix of one part lemon juice to three parts water,
or with a commercial anti-browning product such as ascorbic acid, or apple
juice fortified with vitamin C (the latter helps delay browning).
Eat slices within a couple hours,
or refrigerate if they’re to be used later.
You can use apples for cooking
before the fruit is fully ripe. In fact, if you are storing them you should
pick before they are fully ripe. To
store for later, you can freeze or dry slices.
For drying, dehydrators work best, as do thin slices. Soak as above to prevent browning prior to
both drying or freezing. To freeze,
spread slices on a baking sheet first as with cherries, then repack in
containers or freezer bags when frozen.
For apple sauce, cook until
softened or in the microwave on high power, perhaps one minute for each cup of
slices. Then, for a smoother sauce
process in a blender, or for a chunky sauce use a potato masher instead. Using at least some red apples with the skin
still on makes a pink sauce. Use your
favorite cultivar, or try mixing several for different flavors.
Whether you like fresh apples,
juice, or sauce, they all will provide the same nutrients and a natural source
of energy. Apple juice is the most
recommended fruit juice for infants and children. Apples provide many vitamins, water (they’re
about 85% water), and fiber but don’t add to cholesterol or fat. One apple has about 90 calories.
More on these fruits, including
their culture and cultivars, as well as small fruits, can be found in the Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and