The Cherry-Berry Challenge

Cherry-berry season is an exciting time, ringing in the harvest with a bountiful boom, but it can also be a frustrating one. We’ve all been on a fruit pick where we show up to find just one or two lonely cherries left on the tree, only to see tons of rotten ones on the ground or sluggish squirrels looking like they’ve just had the berry feast of their life. While we do our best to ensure that all our picks are bountiful, during cherry-berry season there’s always a chance the fruit will be gone before we can get to it. Berries can be unpredictable in the sense that they can ripen all at once or in sessions. The challenge is to pinpoint when the best time to harvest is. Too early, and the fruit is under-ripe and sour, too late and the fruit can be mushy or have been eaten by animals before we can get to it.
Fruit Picker with Mulberries Toronto
Not Far From The Tree encourages homeowners to request their fruit picks when their tree looks 3-5 days from being ready to pick. This gives our Pick Leaders enough time to schedule the pick during peak ripeness, so that the homeowner, pickers, and donor agency all receive quality fruit. Unfortunately, due to the nature of berry ripening, they may look underripe one day and be completely ready to go the next. The window of opportunity for when the fruit is at its best can vary from tree to tree and can change every season.
Sometimes, our best judgement is no match for mother nature. It’s possible that even if a pick is scheduled right in time, once the pickers are arranged and reach the tree it’s already dropped its bounty. There may have been stormy weather, or animals like squirrels, birds, or raccoons could have gotten to it first. A tree can be cleared of fruit overnight so empty-handed picks are a part of the experience of harvesting berries in the urban orchard. Berries can be unpredictable, but fruit such as pears and apples are much easier to harvest due to their wider ripening window. These fruits will hang onto the tree for much longer compared to berries, and are less susceptible to the appetites of critters. If you were an unlucky cherry or berry picker this season don’t fret! Plenty of pears, grapes and apples are on their way.

Further Reading

Picking & Preserving with Romero House

A “Picking Blitz” with LoyaltyOne