Harvest Leader Manual

  Produce notes

This section will gradually accumulate specific information about various crops that may be important to know when scouting a crop. Sometimes this information will be useful to include in harvest orientation. The information here is in no way complete and we hope to add to it as time goes by. Please send us any such tips that you know or discover.


With all fruit, it is better to pick it a little early rather than a little late. Remember that there is a lot of handling along the chain from us to the person who eats it: picking, loading, unloading, sorting and repacking, compiling orders, more loading and unloading, unpacking. This all happens quickly in most cases, but fully ripe fruit is more likely to be damaged then less ripe fruit.


Backyard apple trees in this area are frequently infested with worms from the apple coddling moth if they are not sprayed. We cannot donate fruit that we know has worms. The worms leave only a small black hole in the skin that can be hard to distinguish from the normal blemishes that are common on unsprayed apples. Any time that you are scouting apple trees check closely for these including cutting apples open to look inside. If a significant proportion have worms then the crop should not be picked.

Some varieties have few worms. A very general observation is that the earlier the type of apple ripens, the less chance of worms. Yellow Transparent and Gravenstein have few if any.

Checking apples for ripeness is best done by cutting them open and looking at the seeds. If the seeds are white or light-colored, the apple is not ripe.


The ripeness of pears can be hard to judge. They are picked when they are still quite hard and then are best ripened by first chilling them for days or even weeks and then leaving them out at room temperature. If picked too early they will not ripen. Too late and they suffer greatly from all the handling. One test for ripeness is to pivot the pear up from where it hangs. It it snaps off where the stem connects to the branch when it is at a right angle (90 degrees) to the branch, then it is ripe. If it has to be lifted farther it is not ripe. This is a useful but not perfect rule.


Despite several year of trying to wipe out the rumor, we still have to tell volunteers that it is not necessary to have stems on cherries that we pick. In fact, sometimes damage can be done to trees and next year’s fruit when trying to pick cherries with stems on.


It is fine to donate squash that has touched the ground (someone once forgot to take the standard line for fruit out of the harvest orientation template and we want to prevent any "cherry stem" myths, however implausible.)

Squash all feels like it can take less than gentle handling but some varieties, such as yellow zucchini, bruise more easily than one might think. Also, with all squash varieties, the fruit will store longer if the stem is left on.

I prefer:
Worms in apples just add a bit of healthy protein.
True, but we still cannot donate them.