Packing, Storing, and Transporting Washington Apples
Once each and every apple is carefully picked in the orchard, the apples are collected into large bins which are promptly brought to a nearby packing house.
There, the freshly harvested apples are thoroughly washed, then sorted for color, size, and quality before being carefully packed by hand into boxes ready to deliver to grocery stores, fruit markets, and restaurants around the world.
Washington apples are kept under refrigeration while being transported to their destination.
Most people buy their Washington Apples in grocery stores. Your local market may stock as many as nine varieties grown in Washington State.
Keep apples in your refrigerator at home. They’ll stay crisp, and you’ll have a healthy, tasty snack when you need one!
The Washington apple industry continues to invest in state-of-the-art packing and storage facilities to ensure that the same high quality harvested in the orchard is delivered to consumers.
After harvest, apples are sent to the packing house and tested for starch and sugar content to determine when they will be at the peak of flavor. The apples highest in sugar are placed in refrigerated storage rooms and will be packed and sold soonest. Those with higher starch content are stored in sealed, controlled atmosphere (CA) storage rooms, where oxygen is replaced by nitrogen and the temperature is held at about 32 F/0 C. This CA storage slows the apples’ respiration rate so that they do not mature as quickly, which helps to maintain crispness and flavor. During this time, the starch also slowly changes to sugar, so that an apple coming out of CA storage has that “just-picked” taste.
Inside Washington apple packing warehouses are some of the most advanced grading and sorting systems in the world. Computer-controlled cameras and scales weigh, inspect and separate the apples according to color, shape and size. Another system is able to determine the internal condition of the apple, and to cull apples out that do not meet the high Washington standards for crispness and condition.
While still growing in the orchard, fresh apples naturally develop a natural waxy coating that protects them. During the packing process, apples are washed to remove any dirt from the orchard and then re-coated with a mixture of natural wax, either carnuba (obtained from the leaves of the palm Copernicia prunifera) or shellac (obtained from the secretions of the lac beetle (Kerria lacca) – similar to honey from bees). This natural coating protects the apple from losing moisture and crunch, and also gives it an appealing shine similar to what you would get if you rubbed a just-picked apple on your sleeve. Coatings are used extensively in the food industry – from apples to cucumbers to chocolate – to help maintain freshly harvested crispness and flavor.