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.
We are able to keep apples by storing a select portion of the harvest in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) environments.
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.
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.
By utilizing successful long-term storage,