This should take place in the middle of a dry day. Plums readily part from the twigs when ripe, they should not be much handled, as the bloom is apt to be rubbed off. Apricots may be accounted ready when the side next the sun feels a little soft upon gentle pressure with the finger. They adhere firmly to the tree, and would overripen on it and become mealy. Peaches and nectarines, if moved upwards, and allowed to descend with a slight jerk, will separate, if ready; and they may be received into a tin funnel lined with velvet, so as to avoid touching with the fingers or bruising.
A certain rule for judging of the ripeness of figs is to notice when the small end of the fruit becomes of the same color as the large one.
The most transparent grapes are the most ripe. All the berries in a bunch never ripen equally; it is therefore proper to cut away unripe or decayed berries before presenting the bunches at table.
Autumn and winter pears are gathered, when dry, as they successively ripen.
Immature fruit never keeps so well as that which nearly approaches maturity. Winter apples should be left on the trees till there be danger of frost; they are then gathered on a dry day.
In respect to the time of gathering, the criterion of ripeness, adopted by Forsyth, is their beginning to fall from the tree. Observe attentively when the apples and pears are ripe, and do not pick them always at the same regular time of the year, as is the practice with many. A dry season will forward the ripening of fruit, and a wet one retard it so that there will sometimes be a month's difference in the proper time for gathering. If this is attended to the fruit will keep well, and be plump, and not shriveled, as is the case with all fruit that is gathered before it is ripe.
The art of gathering is to give them a lift, so as to press away the stalk, and if ripe, they readily part from the tree. Those that will not come off easily should hang a little longer; for when they come off hard they will not be so fit to store; and the violence done at the foot-stalk may injure the bud there formed for the next year's fruit.
Let the pears be quite dry when pulled, and in handling avoid pinching the fruit, or in any way bruising it, as those which are hurt not only decay themselves, but presently spread infection to those near them; when suspected to be bruised, let them be carefully kept from others, and used first; as gathered, lay them gently in shallow baskets.
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