Of the numerous varieties of fruits grown in this country, apples and pears are about the only ones that can be kept for any length of time without artificial means. As soon as fruit has attained its maturity, a gradual change or breaking down of tissues begins. In some fruits this process follows rapidly; in other it is gradual. There is a certain point at which the fruits are best suited for use. We call it mellowness, and say that the fruit is in “good eating condition.” When this stage has been reached, deterioration and rotting soon follow. In some fruits, as the peach, plum, and early varieties of apples and pears, these changes occur within a few days after maturity, and it is quite useless to attempt to keep them; in others, like the later varieties of apples and pears, the changes are slow but none the less certain. To keep such fruits we must endeavor to retard or prolong the process of change, by avoiding all conditions likely to hasten decay. Even with ordinary care, sound fruit will keep for quite a length of time; but it can be preserved in better condition and for a longer period by careful attention to the following practical points:—
1. If the fruit is of a late variety, allow it to remain on the tree as long as practicable without freezing.
2. Always pick and handle the fruit with the greatest care.
3. Gather the fruit on a dry, cool day, and place in heaps or bins for two or three weeks.
4. Carefully sort and pack in barrels, placing those most mellow and those of different varieties in different barrels; head the barrels, label, and place in a cool, dry place where the temperature will remain equable. Some consider it better to keep fruit in thin layers upon broad shelves in a cool place. This plan allows frequent inspection and removal of all affected fruit without disturbance of the remainder.
5. Warmth and moisture are the conditions most favorable to decomposition, and should be especially guarded against.
6. The best temperature for keeping fruit is about 34 deg. F., or 2 deg. above freezing.
Another method which is highly recommended is to sprinkle a layer of sawdust on the bottom of a box, and then put in a layer of apples, not allowing them to tough each other. Upon this pack more sawdust; then another layer of apples, and so on until the box is filled. After packing, place up from the ground, in a cellar or storeroom, and they will keep perfectly, retaining their freshness and flavor until brought out. The Practical Farmer gives the following rough but good way to store and keep apples: “Spread plenty of buckwheat chaff on the barn floor, and on this place the apples, filling the interstices with the chaff. Cover with the chaff and then with straw two or three feet deep. The advantage of this is that covering and bedding in chaff excludes cold, prevents air currents, maintains a uniform temperature, absorbs the moisture of decay, and prevents the decay produced by moisture.”