Stone Fruit Heavy on Small Sizes This Season
For the second year in a row we are seeing increased volumes of smaller sized stone fruit in California. Warmer weather, lack of chill hours and the drought are some of the reasons our growers are citing. Fruit trees require anywhere from 100-1000 dormant chill hours each season, depending on variety and age of the tree, to produce a vibrant crop. As the weather turns colder the fruit trees go into a dormancy state, storing energy for the following year’s crop. Fruit trees achieve their chill hours best between 35-50 degrees. If temperatures rise above 60 degrees during dormancy this can reverse the accumulated chill hours.
Fruit trees need their sleep just like us. We can survive on a few hours of sleep a night but over time a lack of sleep takes a heavy toll on our body. We are less productive, have less energy and can develop health issues. The detrimental effects of the lack of “sleep” or chill hours are not always immediately evident and can take up to a few years to show up. The fruit trees can begin to react in bizarre behavior such as an early blossom or a split blossom where one part of the tree blossoms first and the rest of the tree blossoms later or not at all, often times resulting in smaller sized fruit.
The drought has changed the amount of water growers are using and possibly slowing down the amount of root development and nutrition the fruit receives from the trees. Richard Burkart from Burkart Organics in Dinuba near Fresno feels this could be affecting the size of the fruit but not the flavor. He still sees that sugars are there and brixing good for a high quality piece of fruit. Richard has 30 years of experience growing high quality organic stone fruit. He experiments by ripening up different varieties and looks for a “good balance of acids and sugars to make up a great piece of fruit.”
Storing and eating tips
*We recommend buying only enough fruit that you plan to eat over the next few days. Gently store your fruit stem side down on a cotton cloth 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.