Fresh fruit from your garden is so nourishing. There’s nothing like feasting on tree-ripened peaches. Here are some suggestions to make the fruit of your labor more productive.
FIGS, FRESH OR DRIED: We often overlook figs. They are almost carefree, producing up to three crops a year. Harvest figs when fruits bend over from their own weight. If milky latex oozes out when harvesting, they’re not ripe. Figs are excellent for eating fresh, frozen or dried.
To dry figs, let them dry partially on the tree and then place them on trays. The longer they stay on the tree, the higher the sugar content. You’ll obtain this quality by drying immature figs.
PEARS, AN INSIDE JOB: Pears ripen best off the tree in a cool (75 degrees or less), humid place for several days. If left on the tree too long, the fruit develops gritty inner flesh and becomes soft and discolored. Pick pears while they are still hard with the color changing to a yellowish light green. At this point, they separate easily from the tree with an upward twist.
HARVEST APPLES: Excessive heat prevents red-skinned varieties from turning red. Slice a couple of apples open and examine the seeds; if they are brown to black, pick them. Place them in the refrigerator crisper for a few days to sweeten them up. If left on the tree too long they also become gritty. Our summer apples will never be as sweet as Washington apples.
PRUNES OR PLUMS: Gardeners often ask, “What is the difference between plums and prunes?” Prunes are European-types with high sugar content so they dry in the sun without fermenting, or you can eat them fresh.
Plums come in a wide range of colors, shapes, sizes and tastes. The trees adapt well to small lots because they are small in size and bear quality crops.
PEACHES OR NECTARINES: Gardeners often ask, “What is the difference between peaches and nectarines. Simply put, a nectarine is a smooth, fuzzless skinned peach. Peaches are easier to grow and have attractive blooms. Nectarines are usually smaller and sweeter and have a distinctive aroma.
ROTTEN PECANS: Pecan trees sometimes drop nuts this time of year. This is a natural shedding of “bad” nuts; the kernels didn’t develop or are empty. Rarely do good pecans prematurely fall.
If you break pecans open and find rotten nuts, blame the leaf-footed plant bug. It inserts its mosquitolike snout into the young pecan shell and damages the kernel. It also damages peaches, apricots, plums, pomegranates and almonds. Once wounded, juices exude making dry crystal deposits on the shell. Then the kernel becomes distorted, sunken, hardened and inedible.
This bug begins its destructive career as a tiny, pink nymph. Later, it grows into an inch-long, gray-black adult with leaflike, widened hind legs. At this point, there is little you can do. Control the younger generation beginning next May, so watch for the nymphs.
SPLITTING ALMONDS: Many gardeners don’t know the difference between developing almonds and peaches, as they look similar in the early stages. In reality, it’s almonds’ way of maturing.
This fall, knock them off the tree. Remove hulls and place shells in the sun to dry for a few days. When kernels rattle in the shells, they are mature. A properly dried kernel snaps in two. Store them in a cool, dry place until ready for use.
PEACH BUGS: Have you ever opened up a ripe peach only to find tiny bugs? These are dried fruit beetles. They smell fruit damaged by the leaf-footed plant bug and move in for the feast. For best control, clean up the area under and around the tree and spray the area with a pesticide. Repeat the application as you approach harvest time.
SPLITTING PITS: Improper fertilization and irrigation practices cause peach and nectarine pits to split. In the spring, after the fruit sets, there must be time for the pit to develop. You’ve noticed the fruit gets to a certain size and stops growing for a while; this is “pit-growing-time.” If the flesh grows at the same time, a struggle takes place and results in split pits.
LANDSCAPE IN SMALL PLACES
Let Master Gardener Denise McConnell teach you tips for organizing your space and choosing size-appropriate plants to give the feeling of intimacy or create the illusion of more space. The class is at 8 a.m. Aug. 24 at Cooperative Extension located at 8050 Paradise Road. For more information and cost, call 702-257-5573.
Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 702-526-1495.