Due to the delicate nature of ripe apricots, which bruise easily, they are best picked individually by hand. Commercially this is done on lifts, ladders, or with picking poles. Ideally, keeping your apricot tree pruned in an open shape with four or five strong scaffold branches will allow for easy hand harvesting. But are there any special techniques for how to pick apricots? Let’s find out more.
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How Do You Pick Apricots?
Apricots are soft fruit that, when really ripe, become quite squishy. Although the best way to enjoy them is fresh from the tree at that stage, it isn’t the most practical.
This is because apricot fruits tend to ripen around the same time. Luckily, they can be picked a little before reaching full ripeness.
This is done by applying gentle downward pressure around the fruit with your fingers and pulling straight down to free it from the branch.
Commercially picked fruits are gathered when they are still reasonably hard but are no longer green. This is because they need to withstand sorting, packing, shipping, and staying good on the shelf in the store for a reasonable time.
The problem with this is that although apricots will continue to ripen once picked, they don’t become any sweeter. This means inevitably, you lose out on their full delicious flavor.
Even today, premium fresh apricots are hand-picked, but this is a time-consuming task and makes it very labor-intensive.
Two great advantages to hand-picking commercial apricots are that the picker can judge by eye and feel how ripe the apricot is, and they are less likely to damage the fruit.
Mechanical harvesting techniques do also exist. Most are in the form of shakers that shake the tree, causing the fruits to drop into hoppers.
The main disadvantage of mechanical picking is that because not all fruits mature simultaneously, some will still be very underripe.
Mechanical devices’ main advantage is speed, which can save the orchard owner money in labor time and personnel.
If you’re lucky enough to have an apricot tree in your yard or a friend who can spare you some fruit, then leave them on the tree until they are just beginning to show a small amount of give, have no green areas, and smell sweet.
The only way to tell exactly how sweet they are is by eating one! So ensure you do a taste test and see what you think.
Be careful when placing your picked apricot into a receptacle – usually a bucket or basket. Avoid just throwing it in and try instead to place it gently, as this will avoid bruising.
If you haven’t used a ton of chemical treatments on your tree, then there are likely to be some marks and imperfections to the apricots – that’s fine!
In fact, it’s great as you don’t ingest all the nasty stuff, just the pure deliciousness of the tasty apricot.
Don’t worry if your apricots look slightly misshapen or have a wrinkle here and there, they are still totally fine to eat.
When you pluck the apricots from the tree, the stem should be left behind. This is another sign that the apricot is ripe.
How Do You Know When Apricots Are Ready To Pick?
Before gathering your apricots, you must first establish if they are ripe enough.
There are many different varieties of apricot, and they have a range of colors when ripe, from pale yellow to deep reddy orange. So it isn’t just the color you’re looking for when testing for ripeness.
Because the entire tree of apricots will ripen very rapidly, it’s best to gather them quite close together as they reach the ripeness you desire.
It also means that if you have a large tree with a bumper crop, you’ll need to convert the fruits in some way, or they will quickly rot.
Their smell is a really good indication of ripeness. The odor should be strong and sweet but not sickly sweet, as this can mean they are beginning to go rotten.
Next, feel it. It should be plump and firm, but when given a gentle squeeze, it will give a little under the pressure of your fingers but not be soft or squishy.
Hard green apricots need to be left on the tree to mature further. These won’t ripen if you pick them, as they are still too under-ripe.
It can be a delicate balance between achieving the perfect ripeness for picking and beating the birds, squirrels, and other wildlife from eating these succulent fruits before you get the chance to harvest them.
In this video, you will see how to tell when your apricots are truly ripe:
Do Apricots Ripen After Picking?
As I mentioned earlier, apricots, once they are no longer green, will continue to ripen after picking.
Their color, texture, and juiciness will all continue to improve, but sadly not their sweetness and flavor. This is why ensuring they are tasty enough before you pick them is so important.
Once you’ve gathered your apricots, you can ripen them further on the kitchen counter at room temperature. They will generally keep for several weeks, depending if they have any bruising and how ripe they were when picked.
Bruised apricots will spoil sooner, and once they start to turn bad, they will quickly molder and attract swarms of fruit flies!
Ideally, you’re looking to get the apricots to a point where they are still firm and not hard but are also sweet and flavorsome. If you leave them on the tree too long, you’ll risk losing them to other animals, and if harvested, their shelf life will be greatly reduced.
Apricot size is not a true indicator of ripeness, and color can be difficult to judge unless you are very familiar with the variety, as apricots can range in color from yellow to a deep blush red depending on their cultivar.
Be careful to keep your apricots from over-ripening on the counter as the point of perfection to rotten is quickly reached.
Once they have ripened to your liking, place them into the refrigerator to slow the process so you can enjoy them for a little longer.
When Is The Best Time Of Day To Pick Apricots?
There isn’t a time of day when it is best for the apricot itself to be picked. However, the best time of day to pick apricots for the person picking them is the morning before the temperatures get too hot.
If you’re going to a “pick your own” fruit orchard to buy your apricots, then you’ll also want to arrive early, as when the day of perfect ripeness comes, those trees are quickly stripped, so arrive too late in the day, and you could be left disappointed.
How Can You Tell If An Apricot Is Sweet?
There is only one litmus test for telling if your apricot is truly sweet, and that is to taste it. You should also be able to get a fair idea of how the apricot smells, as a sweet apricot will have a sweet scent.
Just because one of the apricots is sweet, it doesn’t always follow that they will all be.
On an apricot tree, it is usually those on the lower branches that ripen first, quickly followed by the higher fruits.
Apricots in direct sunlight will also ripen sooner than those in shade.
It can be a bit of a tough decision to decide exactly when to harvest your apricots.
On the one hand, the longer you leave them on the tree, the sweeter and juicier they become.
On the other, because all the apricots on the tree tend to mature around the same time, you can be left with so many ripe fruits that your choices of what to do with them are very limited.
An alternative is perhaps to harvest some when they are less ripe but still sweet if you intend to preserve them in some way and leave others on the tree for fresh eating.
Due to the delicate nature of apricots and how severe bruising degrades the fruits, they are usually picked individually by hand, particularly if you’ll be harvesting them when they reach full ripeness.
Although machines do exist for mechanical harvesting, the results often mean the fruits need to be quite under-ripe, so they will never achieve the same sweetness and juiciness as truly ripe fruit.
Discover all you need to know about growing your own apricot trees at home on our site.