(Twila Amato/Black Press Media)

VIDEO: Harvest a mixed bag for Okanagan fruit growers this year

The heatwave has damaged some crops, while it has been welcome for others

This year’s harvest is bringing a mixed bag of results to Okanagan orchardists.

A summer season marked by a record-breaking heatwave, drought, wildfires and smoke has made its mark, yet it appears to some the climate of the last few months might have been helpful.

Upside Cider co-owner Isaac Potash manages the cidery’s orchard and he said this summer has left many of the apples damaged, cooking the fruit from the inside out, which means he won’t be able to use them for cider or commercial sale.

“(The heatwave) also made us use a lot of our water that we’re allowed to use for the season,” he said.

“So, by the beginning of August, I’d used actually all the water that I was supposed to be using for the season, but because everything was just so dry and so hot, we couldn’t turn the water off.”

In the end, Potash said the heatwave’s effects weren’t as bad as he first thought they would be. He estimated only about 20 per cent of the apples had been sun-damaged, leaving some room to at least, break even.

But, over the past weekend (Sept. 19), all of Upside Cider’s apples were ruined following a regional hail storm.

Potash said it was the first time it hailed in that area in the 14 years since he had worked there.

“All the apples got wrecked, so we can’t sell any of them now,” he said. “All will have to be used for juice instead.”

Others, however, haven’t had the same issues that Upside Cider has been dealing with.

Over in East Kelowna, Kitsch Wines is in full fruit picking season, its grapes unscathed.

Graham Pierce is Kitsch’s winemaker and general manager. He said they were lucky the heat wave hit the region earlier in the summer, well before the grapes started to ripen.

“It was a really interesting year in 2021. Every year is always different. May and June, we were well ahead of the game,” he said.

“Of course, things got maybe a little bit too hot and of course we ran into some smoke in the summer, but for us, I don’t feel it’s going to have a really big impact because it (the heat wave) came pretty early in the year.”

The warm summer followed by the start of fall, have been beneficial for the grapes, he added, as it helps to develop the flavours and sugar content. However, the intense heat of the summer months did push back the grape harvest.

“Sometimes when you get the really hot conditions, the vines shut down,” he said.

“I would say that the concern now for many winemakers is that everything is very ripe and it’s all going to come in in the next few weeks here, so it’s going to be a little bit of a compressed vintage.”

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