Q. I had a lot of bird damage to my apricots this year.
I said “usually” because, on occasion, a bird pecks at
green fruit too early but this is an inexperienced or desperate bird. Damage to
the fruit does not begin in earnest until the sugar content is climbing.
A. Bird damage is easy to stop in apricots but you must harvest the fruit when still hard and let them finish ripening off the tree. When it comes to apricots, plums and peaches, tree-ripened fruit does not mean the fruit is left on the tree until it is soft. Doing that is just asking for bird damage.
|Grackel in apricot tree|
Some fruit ripen off the tree while others do not. Most of the stone fruit such as apricot, plum and peach can be harvested when still hard and they will finish ripening off the tree. Fruit like apples, cherries, pomegranates and grapes do not and must be harvested when they are ripe.
|Pick apricots when they are sill hard but at the first sign of bird damage. Let them ripen off of the tree.|
It is important to harvest fruits at the right time. One method to use is to inspect the fruit for bird damage daily when close to harvest time. Begin harvesting when damage starts. Birds know when sugar content is rising. That’s when bird damage usually begins.
|Pick the apricots with good color and let them ripen off the tree. Come back in a few days and the green ones will be ready.|
This increase in sugar content in apricots also coincides with a change in fruit color, approximately 7 to 14 days before the fruit is soft on the tree. Keep an eye on the fruit and look for early bird damage. If the fruit has begun to change color, harvest when the fruit are still hard.
Apricots develop good sugar content when harvested early. Sugar content does not equal flavor. Flavor is much more complex than just the amount of sugar. It has a lot to do with the mixture of different chemicals inside the fruit such as the organic acids, flavonoids, etc.