“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.” This is one of my favourite Chinese proverbs and when thinking of planting fruit trees for a bountiful harvest then July is certainly the perfect month for this. The weather is cool and the trees dormant which is best to reduce shock and increase their survival long term with less stress related disease. Watering isn’t such a problem mid winter to keep feeding roots and right now all our stores are inundated with tempting varieties for the urban gardener including some great heritage trees and double or triple grafted trees which are the best idea since sliced bread! Fancy having a mix of cooking and eating fruit that is ripe at different times of the season all on one tree; it certainly wasn’t like that when I was a kid and is now so handy with our smaller sized subdivided sections.

It’s family times like we had a few weeks ago that remind me of the importance of planting your favourites for memory making harvests like we stumbled across. We found a lone planted ‘old school’ apple on the side of the road, variety unknown but we knew it must have been planted intentionally in the clearing with a park bench conveniently resting near by. We were on a road trip with the kids and as we cruised down state highway 1 between Taupo and Turangi we couldn’t miss the opportunity to pick some apples off an old lichen baring tart tasting tree. The kids were hoisted into the boughs and kilos of fruit were tossed down leaving the tree looking no less picked from. It was fun and the reward of fresh fruit was enjoyed by us all. What was taken to the cousins was juiced up in her Breville and cooked up into hot apple crumble, yum! Thankfully varieties can have their height clipped for easier picking as the brittle branches of an apple or stone fruit aren’t the smartest to put all of your weight on even if you are a kid! One thing that really stood out to all of us was the quantity that the tree held even though it was late in the season and for me reminded me of the old Chinese proverb we need to be planting fruit trees now for future generations to enjoy and for our own personal supply of chemical spray free freshness in our own backyard.

Let’s uncover some of my faves which you can pick up from your local Palmers right now:

Tangelo is up at the top of the list for me and my freshly squeezed tangelo juice I’m enjoying right now as I write this. They are simply so JUICY! They say the tangelo is an accidental hybrid of a mandarin and grapefruit. My Nana had one growing in her backyard in Hawkes Bay and she would fiercely protect it from us grandkids as we’d pick them too early… much like today’s tangelo juice! They are at their sweetest later in the season but I still just can’t wait that long.

Granny Smith Apples are next. Practical and great for aiding digestion, apples in general are high in gel-forming fiber pectin that helps push waste through the gastrointestinal tact effectively. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away and this along with its high vitamin content is the reason why. Green apples have that tart versatile ease for cooking and eating too. The traditional Granny Smith is at the top of my apple list.

Peaches. Golden Queen are an old New Zealand fruit first grown in 1908, are a late season riper and for me are worth waiting for. You just can’t beat them for texture and flavour; they are great for cooking and fresh eating. I’m also partial to peacharines and I remember Mum used to use them and are still popular as a cross between a nectarine and peach, super juicy to eat fresh on a hot summers day.

Feijoas. I think my love of fruit foraging began when I was a young paper-round riding kid in the Hawkes Bay. I remember a motivator to finish my run on my Raleigh 20 was the harvest I could fill my bag with. There was a metal rack Dad had mounted to the handle bars, the green canvas bag tied to the rack was weighted down at the beginning of the run with the Hawkes Bay Times and at the end of the run just before home was a perfect fruit bag. The feijoas hung from an old tree at the school house next door to home. I’d lean the bike to the 1.8m high fence and climb its frame to get a better reach-those were the days! The sweet tangy flesh would be dug out with my teaspoon I’d carry on board and was the perfect reward for my hard paper delivery work. In our garden I’ve planted Apollo – huge fruit on a self fertile tree. A great hedging variety is Unique and another oversized popular variety is Mammoth.

Plums. Now this is a holiday favourite at our regular camp ground site in the Coromandel. While hubby and I pitch the tent the kids are all in the tree above filling t-shirts and their faces with juicy ripe plums. The variety on site F28 is a Duffs Early Jewel, an early ripening plum that is ready around Christmas time. It’s a medium sized fruit with red skin and yellow flesh. Duffs Early Jewel is a self-fertile variety and is a good pollinator for other varieties too.

For you it might be Otago apricots, a sweet navel orange or an old nut tree but the very best of the crops arrive in store first so to get the pick of the varieties get into store as soon as you can. With our warm winter so far there are plenty of people gardening so don’t miss out on your favourites!