The Zen of Picking Fruit

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Go beyond the market for a minute. That fruit you're holding has a story, about work and care, sun and water. It's also about the harvest; a dance of exploration, partnering, and purpose that changes and delights both parties.

First, as for any dance, you need the proper costume. Here, that's long sleeved shirt, long pants and sun hat. Gloves are optional: I mostly go without unless I'm picking berries. Also, tools -- not many, just a sturdy picking box or bag, and a light but trusted ladder.

Next, survey the scene and plot your choreography. What is the angle of the sun and the set of the branches? Where is the fruit sparse or heavy, inviting or still green, smooth-skinned or bird-bit? Where will the ladder best be placed to reach this one and then that? Where will the tree accept embrace and where will it refuse? Once sure of your partner, set the ladder firmly and begin.

Every sense will guide you; sight for judging blush or hue, smell to catch a sudden waft of nectar, hearing for the creak and rustle of the tree echoing your movement, taste to spot check as the impulse strikes you. And touch -- the last, but most critical. Take the fruit in your hand and hold it, gently. Feel its heft, the firmness or slight give against your grasp, and ask the tree if it is ready. As you tug ever so slightly, she will tell you: ripeness falls to you like water into sand, softly, smoothly, silently. Resistance says perhaps tomorrow, but not now.

When the picking's done, climb down and thank the tree. Is that her sighing, free now to begin another season's work? No telling, but perhaps you'll hear it as you bite into that peach.


With a Perspective, I'm Peggy Hansen.

Peggy Hansen is a photographer and organic farmer in Santa Cruz.