The journey of your favourite apple starts at harvest time.
Have you ever looked at your Ambrosia apple and wondered how it got from the orchard to the store where you bought it? Each apple goes on quite an adventure before it winds up in your fruit bowl at home. Let’s trace it’s steps.
Once it’s determined that an apple is ripe (using the maturity test) it’s hand-picked. During harvest time, thousands of apples are picked from the trees – some so high up in the tree it requires a ladder to get to them. Once off the tree, the apple is placed in the picker’s bag slung over their shoulder. When the bag is full (with usually about a hundred apples) the picker makes his or her way over to the wooden apple bin. The bottom of the bag unhooks so the apples can slide gently into the bin. Nobody wants bruised apples!
It takes a lot of apples to fill up a bin (around 2000, medium sized apples). Each full bin is then moved by forklift to the waiting flat-bed truck. Once fully loaded, the truck takes the bins to the packinghouse. Here, each apple is washed and may be waxed to help keep it fresh and blemish free. The apples make their way along a conveyor belt and roll past hundreds of little cameras that can detect the slightest imperfection. The apples that don’t make the cut aren’t destined for the store (but they aren’t wasted either). Next, the apples roll through a special set of scales that make sure the apples are big enough. During this photo and weighing process, the apples are also graded (Extra Fancy, Fancy, Commercial etc).
Now the fruit is ready to be packed in boxes or bags. However, it won’t be shipped until each apple passes a human inspection to make sure the electronic inspectors didn’t miss something. Once it’s been double checked, the apples are carefully placed into bags or onto trays, which fit into boxes. These might go straight out to waiting transport trucks or they might be placed into cold storage with special atmosphere control that helps keep them fresh well into the new year.
You can probably guess what happens next. The apples arrive at the store, the stockperson puts them out and you snatch them up to take home.
If you’re shopping at the farmer’s market then your Ambrosia apples skipped the packinghouse visit.
Want to see what all of this looks like? Check out our Harvest Time and Packinghouse videos.