Harvesting and keeping 4 key fruit crops in Fall

How to harvest and keep fall fruit such as walnut, chestnut, apple and pear

September is a generous month, harvests are plentiful: apples, pears, walnuts, chestnuts… Sometimes, when we don’t know how to keep them, we don’t even try to harvest them and let them go to waste. These small tips and tricks are helpful during the harvest time to make sure your autumn fruits keep for a very long time!

1- Nuts and chestnuts

Harvesting walnuts

Walnut on the tree in its opened hull Walnut is actually just the kernel of a fleshy fruit called a “drupe” in botanical terms. This fleshy hull is often called the “husk” for the walnut tree.

The right time to harvest is when the husk is still green but has split open, revealing the walnut inside. Usually, this spreads over a period of one month, from end of September to end of October.

It’s possible to pick the nuts directly from the tree, or instead wait for them to drop to the ground. If you prefer to pick them from the ground, eat them quickly or they’ll be infected with worms. In both cases, it’s important to remove the husk (watch out for stains on your fingers!) and brush the hull to remove all remaining filaments.

How to keep walnuts?

  • Dry walnuts on a tray in a single layerFresh nuts, which are a bit bitter, keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
  • To keep nuts for over a year, you must dry them out in the sunlight for at least 2 weeks. Spread the harvest on a mesh grid and roll it over regularly. Remove any damaged nuts and those with spots or holes. After the drying, store the nuts in open trays, covering them with some old newspaper pages in a dry, well ventilated are that gets neither light nor heat.
  • To learn more: How to grow walnut

Chestnut harvest

Harvest your chestnuts with good shoes and glovesChestnuts are dried fruits that don’t open up as they dry (the botanical term for this is indehiscent). They’re classified as “achene” fruits. Each chestnut is wrapped in a pod or burr surrounded with dense spikes, unlike the fruit of the horse chestnut tree which only have a few, softer spikes. The chestnut has a wispy tip (left over by the dried flower pistils), which help distinguish it from horse-chestnut which is poisonous!

Chestnuts should be harvested as they fall from the tree, from September to mid-November. Tread on them lightly with your foot to remove the prickly burr, and then toss them immediately in a pail of water to discard any that float: they’re hollow!

How to keep chestnut?

  • Roast your chestnuts over the fire or in an ovenIf it hasn’t been treated in any manner, the fruit will only keep for a single week in the coldest section of the refrigerator.
  • You can freeze them after performing a few steps: slice them open and roast them in the fireplace, or peel them instead (removing the hard peel and the thin layer of fuzz) and blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water. They’re ready for freezing, but you can also mash them into puree beforehand if desired.
  • There’s also a sweeter option: candy them, it’s a famous delicacy in Europe!
  • If you intend to keep them for more than 3 months in a crate, it’s crucial to dry the fruits well in an oven at 140°F (60°C) for 30 minutes. Spread the chestnuts so they don’t touch each other during the baking. Store them in a ventilated crate, stirring them from time to time.
  • After drying the fruit out even more, you can mill the insider portion into flour.
  • To learn more: Growing a chestnut tree

2- Apples and pears

How to harvest apples and pears?

Apple siezed between fingers for twisting offIt’s extremely important to harvest before it freezes. In higher altitudes, if fruits don’t ripen because of constant cloud cover, pinch a few leaves off to expose the fruits.

For winter varieties of both apple and pear, the fruits finish ripening off the tree, in a special storage cellar. The harvest takes place around the second week of October, when the fruit comes off with a light twist. Fruits that are harvested too early tend to wrinkle during storage. Those that are harvested too late start rotting!

  • Begin the harvest in dry weather, towards the middle of the day.
  • Cup the fruit in one hand and twist it slightly.
  • Delicately place the fruit in a crate, which you immediately protect with shade as soon as it’s full.
  • Any fruits that fall to the ground or show signs of damage must be stored separately because they won’t keep for as long.

How to keep apples and pears?

  1. Fruit cellar with apples about to be organized in itStore the fruits in a fruit cellar. An underground cellar with thick walls is ideal for this (constant temperature of about 45°F / 8°C, no freezing, moisture levels 85 to 90%). Disinfect the room beforehand, about 2 weeks earlier, by burning sulfur wicks inside. Position the fruits on the shelves, pears to one side and apples to the other. Make sure no two fruits are touching. For apples, turn them upside down (stem to the floor). For pears, store them right-side up (stem to the ceiling). Dipping the stems of pears in wax will slow their ripening. Check on your fruits regularly, at least once a week. Ventilate the room on a weekly basis. Eliminate any fruits that start rotting immediately.
  2. Transform them to make jam, applesauce, fruit jellies, especially all the fruits that are a bit damaged.

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Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: Dmitriy, Pavlo, Helga Kattinger, Heung Soon, Marc Pascual, Ulrike Leone, stanze