No California Winter Affects Stone Fruit Season
The freeze back in December followed by warmer weather and no rain meant California did not have a winter. Fruit trees need anywhere from 100-1000 chill hours to produce a healthy bountiful crop. Chill hours allow the trees to go dormant and get the sleep they need to rejuvenate themselves. Trees, like ourselves need sleep in order function correctly. Even trees can get cranky from lack of sleep.
The best temperature for trees to “chill” is above 45°F (to about 55°F). If the temperature rises above 60°F it can reverse the chilling hours accumulated up to that point. Think of how you feel and function after not getting enough sleep for a period of time and how refreshed you feel when you return to a more normal sleep pattern. Same with trees, if they are not getting enough sleep over winters they can become dysfunctional.
We are now seeing the evidence that stone fruit trees have not gotten enough sleep these past winters. In the early spring our growers reported uneven blossoming, also known as split blossom, where part of the tree blossomed first and then the other half came on late or not at all. This erratic blooming causes different parts of the tree to ripen at different times as well as affecting the volume, sizing and quality of the fruit. The fruit is ripening irregularly and volume is less this year. A grower who would normally go into the orchard to pick 1-2 times is now picking 3-4 times as the fruit ripens. Typically the season starts with small fruit and then sizes up. Growers are seeing smaller sized fruit, more culling and an inability to forecast larger sizes and how many cases will be picked.
Guidelines for storage and eating:
If you have been following our blogs you will remember that we recommend buying only enough fruit that you can keep out on your counter. The idea is not to store your fruit, but to buy and eat during a period that keeps it out of the refrigerator.
*Gently place your stone fruit shoulder or stem side down on a cotton cloth on your counter at room temperature.
*As they ripen eat them and if the ripening gets away from you the fruit can be stored in the refrigerator if necessary. Remember refrigeration affects the flavor over a period of time and fruit will begin to taste ice boxy or flat.
* Always bring your stone fruit to room temperature before eating to get the best flavor.
Depending on where you shop finding ripe fruit off the rack is very difficult. Factors such as maturity, ripeness and where you buy your fruit all come into play. We will discuss this in further detail in our next blog. We look forward to hearing all of your fruit or veg questions on our Facebook wall.