Apple, scientifically known as Malus pumila, is enjoyed for its crisp texture and sweet-tart flavor. In India, Apple is predominantly cultivated in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, the hill regions of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. Additionally, it is grown to a lesser extent in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Punjab and Sikkim. These versatile fruits are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients and dietary fibre. However, the journey from the orchard to our table is a complex one, with various challenges that can impact the freshness and quality of apples. This is where post-harvest technology comes into play.
Post harvest technology for apples encompasses a wide range of methods and practices aimed at maintaining the quality, taste, and shelf life of apples after they are harvested. From the moment these fruits are plucked from the tree, they begin a journey that involves careful handling, storage and packaging, all aimed at ensuring that apples reach consumers in their prime condition. This crucial field not only minimizes food waste but also extends the availability of these nutritious fruits, making it a year-round favorite on our tables. In this article, we will explain the post-harvest techniques that make this possible.
Post Harvest Handling of Apples
Getting the perfect apple on our table involves a series of careful post-harvest processes. Below mentioned are the crucial steps in post-harvest management to guarantee that apples remain fresh, visually appealing, and ready for market distribution.
Immediately after harvesting, apples are subjected to pre-cooling process. This involves placing the freshly harvested apples in a well-ventilated and temperature-controlled environment. The primary goal here is to remove the residual field heat that accumulates in the fruit during harvesting. Adequate pre-cooling is essential to prevent premature ripening and maintain the apples freshness. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that the apple surfaces remain moisture free before proceeding to the next steps of grading, wrapping and packing into cartons.
Apples are graded based on their size, appearance and overall quality. The grading process involves manual sorting into six different size categories. Additionally, apples are evaluated for their color, shape, quality and general appearance, leading to three or more quality grades. These quality grades are labeled as AAA, AA, A; A, B, C or extra fancy, fancy class I and fancy class II.
Apples are renowned for their extended shelf life compared to many other fruits. After harvest, they can be stored for a prolonged period, ranging from four to eight months. Cold storage facilities provide the optimal environment for preserving apple freshness. These storage units are carefully maintained at specific temperatures, typically ranging from -1.1° to 0°C, with humidity levels maintained at 85-90%. Such controlled conditions help delay the ripening process, preventing spoilage and ensuring that the apples remain market-ready over an extended period.
To ensure the safe transportation and protection of apples, they are usually packed in sturdy wooden boxes. These boxes have the capacity to hold approximately 10 or 20 kilograms of fruit. Additionally, corrugated fibre board cartons are also employed for packing purposes.
Trucks are the preferred mode of transportation for apples, primarily due to their convenience and accessibility. These vehicles provide a reliable means of transporting apples from the orchards to the market, ensuring that they arrive in optimal condition.
The marketing of apple produce is typically controlled by intermediaries, such as wholesalers and commission agents. During years of abundant apple production, wholesale prices in the producing areas may decrease to levels that are not economically viable for growers.
Therefore, post-harvest techniques for apples are crucial for maintaining their quality, reducing waste, meeting consumer expectations, and supporting the economic and environmental sustainability of apple production and distribution.