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Apples…Apples, Fall Year Round

It might be mid-May, but it’s always apple season at Rice Fruit Company! Farm families in our area harvest apples from August-November, then bring them to Rice Fruit to store, pack and market. In this post, we will be answering some questions about how we are able to keep those apples crisp and flavorful all year long.

When apples come to us, they are brought in by trucks in large plastic bins.  We receive thousands of bins filled with fruit- every day- during our harvest window.

Because it would be virtually impossible to pack and ship that much fruit in the fall, we’ve honed the art and science of storage, allowing us to pack and ship apples all year long.

How are you able to do this?

We are able to keep apples by storing a select portion of the harvest in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) environments.

What is Controlled Atmosphere?

Controlled Atmosphere or CA is a method of storage where the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and temperature are regulated.  As a result of these atmospheric adjustments, the ripening process of fruit is slowed.  This is an invaluable tool for produce farmers and marketers, as it allows an extension of the marketing season, sometimes for an entire year.

This is one of many CA rooms at Rice Fruit Company. This room had recently been opened to access additional supplies. Every bin is filled with apples.

How does this work for my apples?

Apples naturally take in (breathe) oxygen and give off (exhale) carbon dioxide as their chemical properties change from starch to sugar (ripening).  Within this process, they produce ethylene gas.  In plants, ethylene regulates growth and development of fruit, and the rate of speed at which these processes occur.  As apples mature, and the levels of ethylene gas increase, they ‘exhale’ more carbon dioxide and the fruit continues to ripen.  When the oxygen level is reduced and the respiration rate slows, the apples put out little to no carbon dioxide thus pausing the ripening process. This pause, in essence, puts the apple into hibernation. So, when a CA room is opened and the apples ‘wake up’, weeks and even months later, the apples are as fresh and crisp as the day they were put in there.

What are the benefits of CA storage?

By utilizing successful long-term storage,

  1. We can keep a full complement of fruit for longer periods of time.  Consumers like variety and we are able to offer a number of choices on favorite varieties instead of having only one or two to choose from.
  2. Local fruit is available year-round.  It’s always “apple season,” in Adams County, PA!
  3. We reduce food waste.  This is a cause near and dear to us.  As we provide nourishment to consumers, we are very aware of food shortages in the rest of the developing world.
  4. We can keep our business open and staff employed throughout the year, instead of seasonally. This is not only beneficial to our business, but to the local community.

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