Friday, 2 March 2012

Thinking about the harvest

When I was at the grove yesterday, I noticed the first signs of colour on some of the fruit - the pendolino particularly.  It is usually one of the first to colour up.  Colour, of course, is not a fail proof method of judging readiness for harvesting.  Especially in our climate, fruit will superficially turn  pink and purple but be quite hard and green inside.  In previous years we have had a first pick around Anzac day.  A visiting expert told me once that given our location, around the second week in May should be a good time to harvest.  But in actuality over the years we have dragged out harvest until mid August, doing batches of different varieties as they seemed ready.  Our press is small and can only handle about 250 kilos a day when everything goes well. (And it often doesn't!) We have an added complication this year - we are going on holidays for 3 weeks in June. That is a big chunk out of our harvest time. I have started to think about getting a contract harvester and presser and taking off a lot of fruit in one go.  It is expensive, but so is paying hand pickers.  The variety I think might be best to try is the Koroneiki.  They have a good lot of fruit this year, and the crop is uniform from tree to tree.  There are 368 trees, which I think is a day's worth of work for the contractor I am thinking of hiring. The problem is that Koroneiki are notoriously difficult to machine harvest - the fruit is small and doesn't detach easily.  We have started to 'skirt' the trees already, taking off the lower branches so the machine can get in.  I wonder if I am making a mistake.

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