frequently asked questions
When are freestone peaches available?
Freestone peaches are generally available the middle of August depending on the season. In late July the first peaches of the season are available and are semi-freestone. They have the same excellent quality and flavor of the freestone peach.
How do I ripen fruit at home?
To ripen firm fruit, store at room temperature and out of direct sunlight in a loosely closed paper bag for a day or two. Note; plastic bags are not suitable for ripening fruit, as they will trap moisture and air, which can cause premature spoilage, so always use paper bags.
I would like to be able to enjoy Ontario peaches in the winter months – can I freeze them?
Yes and it’s so easy! Peel, pit and slice. Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) fruit preservative to 4 cups (1 L) sliced peaches. Pack tightly into plastic containers, leaving 1-inch (2.5-cm) air space at top. Top with a crumpled sheet of wax paper and seal tightly. Frozen peaches can be stored for one year.
Preserves are easy too – check out this recipe.
How are Ontario tender fruits harvested?
Cherries are harvested using a special machine that holds each tree and shakes the ripe fruit off and down onto a small conveyor belt. From here, they’re dropped into a plastic collection bin filled with cold water. The water cools the fruit before processing. The shaking machine is used very carefully to ensure the tree isn’t harmed when the fruit is being harvested. Once several bins are full with fruit, the bins are transported from the orchard to the processing plant located on the farm.
All the fruit on the tree does not ripen at the same time. This means peaches, for example, must be harvested by hand and each tree will be picked about four times until all the fruit is harvested. Each time workers pick fruit from a tree, they’re selecting the ripest, most mature fruit and placing them into a small basket.
If the fruit will be processed, the smaller baskets are emptied into larger plastic collection bins that are placed between the tree rows in the orchard and then transported to the processing plant. Fruit that will be eaten as fresh fruit are packaged into small baskets of varying sizes, depending on the needs of the buyer, and shipped to stores and markets. These fruits are more delicate and must be handled with care or else they will bruise and become blemished.
Visit www.virtualfarmtours.ca to learn more about how Ontario tender fruits are harvested and processed through photos and videos.
How are Ontario tender fruits grown?
Farmers buy young seedlings and plant them in their orchards. It can take three to four years for a peach tree to grow from seedling to a fruit-producing tree, for example. A small plastic tube around the base of the seedling helps protect the trunk of the young tree and keep it growing.
In the spring, fruit trees flower. It’s during blossom season that pollination occurs. This is the transfer of plant pollen from a plant’s male reproductive organs to its female reproductive organs to form seeds. This is how the fruit starts to grow from the blossom. Pollination usually happens by insects, like bees, or by the wind. Once pollination has taken place, the blossom dries up and the small fruit begin to form.
Farmers prune their fruit trees regularly to make sure that they grow properly. This means removing old, diseased or surplus branches. Pruning is a manual process and is usually done in early spring before the new year’s growth starts to emerge.
Thinning involves removing some of the small fruit that has started growing on a tree; usually in late spring or early summer. This allows the remaining fruit to grow larger and be better able to meet market standards for size and colour. There’s no machine that can do this work; it must be done by hand to ensure the right number of fruit are removed and the remaining fruit isn’t damaged.
Visit www.virtualfarmtours.ca to learn more about how peaches are grown, harvested and processed on an Ontario farm through photos and videos.