Harvest your fruit (UK)

Information sheet

Use this simple guide to plan when you should harvest the fruit in your school garden.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s):

When should you harvest fruit?

  • Spring: rhubarb.
  • Early summer: goji berries, gooseberries and strawberries.
  • Mid-summer: apricots, blueberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, jostaberries, nectarines, peaches, raspberries and strawberries.
  • Late summer: early-ripening apple cultivars, blackberries, damsons, figs, grapes, plums and raspberries.
  • Autumn: apples, goji berries, medlars, pears, quince, autumn-fruiting raspberries.

When is it actually ripe?

  • The ripening period of all fruit varies from year to year, according to the local climate.
  • Timing is important – if picked too soon, the flavour of the fruit may not be fully developed; but leave it too late and the flavour and storage quality will be poor.
  • Assess whether trees and bushes are ready for picking by checking the ripeness of a few individual fruits using taste, texture, touch, and visual clues.
  • If sound-looking fruit start falling off the tree (windfalls), it is usually ready for harvest, though this does not always hold true with pears. More importantly, apples should be firm, sweet, crunchy, pears hard but sweet and plums soft to the touch.

Most fruit should taste sweet and palatable with a few exceptions:

  • Gooseberries can be picked under-ripe for jam or left to sweeten and soften on the bush. Some cultivars are however sweeter than others and these are known as dessert gooseberries.
  • Redcurrants and acid cherries are always sour, but are ripe when swollen, soft and deep coloured.
  • Cooking apples are usually sour but can be harvested once windfalls begin to drop, and before the first frosts.
  • Dessert apples for storage can be picked slightly under-ripe.

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