Growing your own fruit is tremendously rewarding, but knowing exactly when to harvest is sometimes difficult. Here are Don’s tips on harvesting pears, mangoes, pawpaws and bananas.
Pear (Pyrus communis)
Pears should be harvested just before they are ripe. Pick them when they change from a dark green colour to a light or yellowish green, but before they turn yellow. At this stage they will be firm, not soft. If left to ripen on the tree the flavour will not be as good. They may also go soft at the core and develop a grainy texture.
After harvesting store the unripened pears in the crisper section of the refrigerator. To ripen, remove them from the crisper and place in the fruit bowl. They should be ready to eat in a day or two.
Mango (Mangifera indica)
Mangoes are large, evergreen trees with dark green, leathery leaves. They like a warm, sheltered position and well-drained soil. They grow best in the tropics, Brisbane and frost-free, coastal areas of Perth and Sydney.
Mangoes flower in spring, and the fruit matures from October through to April, depending on the variety and the location. The fruit is ready to pick when the skin turns from green to yellow, orange or red (depending on the variety). It’s also a good idea to pick a sample mango and cut it open. If the flesh next to the seed is yellow, the crop should be ripe in one week and can then be harvested. Ripe mangoes can be stored in the refrigerator.
Pawpaw or papaya (Carica papaya)
Pawpaws look a bit like palms, but they are really large, herbaceous perennials. They grow best in warm, humid climates with good summer rainfall and frost-free winters.
Pawpaws can be picked when the fruit colours fully (bright yellow, orange or red, depending on the variety). However, in cooler weather they don’t keep as well, so it is best to pick the fruit as soon as they show a little colour and ripen them inside.
Banana (Musa cultivars)
A banana sucker produces fruit about 15-18 months after planting. After the fruit has been harvested the parent plant will die, and should be chopped down to make way for the new suckers that will take its place. Bananas grow well in tropical and subtropical climates (see note below).
A banana bunch is ready to pick when the fruit is still green, but just starting to yellow. For the home gardener, harvesting them hand by hand might be a better option. Ripening green bananas is easy. Bananas, like all ripening fruit, produce a gas called ethylene. This is a plant hormone, which stimulates further ripening. If ripe bananas are put into a bag with green bananas, ethylene from the yellow bananas will speed up the ripening of the green ones.
(Note: Restrictions exist on the growing and transport of banana plants and propagation material in Queensland, parts of northern NSW and the Northern Territory to protect commercial banana plantations from disease. These restrictions relate to both Musa species and Ensete species. Check with the relevant authority in your state for more information.)
For information about growing fruit see ‘The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia’ by Louis Glowinski (Lothian Books, 1991, ISBN 0850918707, $49.94).