Planning a monthly fruit harvest
Pre-planning a monthly fruit harvest–and how to store and use that harvest until the next one–is easier than it sounds. Just find out what fruit perennial grows in your area, and when it matures. Your local US or national agricultural cooperative extension service is a good resource to research what to plant, as are farmer's market growers.
Here is our plan.
April – Strawberry harvest. We make it into jam, and freeze them. If yields increase we may also dehydrate some. This overlaps with
May – Mulberry harvest. Ate 'em fresh and in pies. We froze some this year, the first really good bearing year for our 4-year-old tree. This overlaps with
June – Blueberry, fig, elderberry & blackberry harvests. Blues are not so hot this year, but this is when they're ripe. Our blueberry bushes are badly sited, so we will move them or get new ones and until then we live near a HUGE blueberry farm. This will be the last year we forage for wild blackberries (jam, freeze, pies) since we planted thornless canes. We don't have a wet enough yard for elderberries (so we forage) but plan on transplanting wild ones to the pond in the woods behind our property. BIG crop of figs coming; these will become fig/lemon/walnut jam or be dehydrated. Excess will be sold to the health food store. These harvests overlap with
July – Peach harvest. The good news is I knew our white flesh peach was nearing the end of its life and planted a Redhaven peach two years ago. The bad news is the older peach tree just died. RIP to the bonsai peach tree. It'll make dandy firewood and we'll have to buy local peaches at the farmer's market, in July. This tapers off around the time of the
August – Grape harvest. Don't laugh; we have so many wild scuppernog (muscadine) & concord grapes on our fences we've learned to prune them with a chain saw. There is also a formal arbor in the front yard and we added more concord grapes this year. We juice the muscadines and make jam from the concords.
September – technically, a tomato is a fruit, right? This is when I can my tomatoes for the year. We don't eat pasta, so I make tons of half-pint jars of pizza sauce. This is so much work I'm glad that's the main focus since next month is
October – Apple and pear harvest. Bushels and bushels and BUSHELS of pears. I home-can pear sauce with ginger, sliced pears, pear halves, and sliced apples & apple butter. It takes most of my spare time. The pears are foraged from a nearby tree but we are buying compatible semi-dwarf rootstock and grafting that with branches from our forage tree and planting it in our yard. The apples are from a neighbor, but we have two 3-year old trees that will start producing next year.
November through March – We use up the fruit harvests, knowing we saved money and are not eating food from God-knows-where, contaminated with mystery chemicals. We put the dried figs in salads with goat cheese, make peanut butter and various jelly/jam sandwiches, pork chops with sliced pears and cranberries, and hot spiced peach halves. The elderberry tinctures/juice and grape juice don't last long but we are ramping up production. I still have dried blueberries from last year we reconstitute to make blueberry muffins.
Think about the growing-season months your garden is not producing and consider filling the gaps. Fresh fruit is the sweetest reward of home gardening.