I’ve never really had pears before. The trees have sat in the orchard for seven years and didn’t really do a lot except grow. I’d say they were free loading, but I’ve not actually done much for them in that time. When I established my orchard I put it way down the end of our property so we would have a reason to go there. Otherwise – aside from the splendid view, we really wouldn’t have fully utilised the space we have. So all the trees have pretty much been left to languish in a do or die attitude. Most have had the fortitude to ‘do.’
The problem is – the orchard is way down the far end of our property and while I can still see it from my office window, inducing guilt in me as I tap out tales on my keyboard, the garden is closer, and way more needy. I can see that too from my window as it waves at me with its laden plants shouting “look at me, look at me.” And more often than not the garden wins the prize of my time in the battle of the produce.
Every now and then the orchard pipes up “I should have something ready for you about now… come and see.” And I make the long trip (who am I kidding.. it takes about 3 minutes to walk across the flat fields) and investigate things. I invariably always forget to take a basket, which means taking the long trip back to get one and then returning to the orchard to harvest its meagre offerings.
I’ve hardly ever seen plums despite having about seven trees – although this year there have been a few – I’d say about a dozen plums all up and they were so good, all was forgiven immediately. I think next year will be the year for plums.
The apples have always been steady although this year it looks like something has been pinching them from the branches as there aren’t as many as there should be. Quite the conundrum.
The stone fruit have been fabulous and have rewarded us for the last couple of years with each year being more fruitful than the last. The nectarines have decided to be perfect now, which just so happens to coincide with the first rainy day we have had in ages. However, if I delay the harvest the fruit will have gone beyond perfection and no one wants that. I am doing my very best not to complain about the rain as it may be an inconvenience to my fruit harvesting escapades, it is doing great things to the moisture levels in my soil in a way my hose has only been able to attempt.
But while checking the nectarines I noticed the pears looked quite plump. I tentatively held one in my hand and lifted gently and came off easily. But it was still quite hard. I vaguely remembered there was more to harvesting pears than the standard pick and eat procedure. Pears were different. I picked a few because there was a simple satisfaction in feeling the fruit liberate from the tree and resting in my hand.
I didn’t want to pick them all until I’d confirmed what I needed to know to get the harvest right. I wouldn’t want a repeat of the time I harvested a huge box of kumara – sweet potato, only to have it rot away because I didn’t realise you had to cure the skins. The thing with pears is you are supposed to harvest them while they are still hard because if you leave them to ripen on the tree, by the time they are soft to the touch, they are all mushy on the inside. You see pears ripen from the inside out. Which I guess is a good thing, because you actually have some degree of control over when they will ripen. Keeping them in the cold in a dark place will slow the ripening and bringing them into the warm will make them go all sweet and juicy. But they do like a bit of a chill factor for optimum deliciousness. Unlike the nectarines. Alongside the pears I have a tree full of nectarines all at peak ripeness at this very moment. Just as well I love summer fruit!
Come again soon – hopefully I won’t have drowned in a sea of sticky sweet fruit juice.
Sarah the Gardener : o)