Apples From Tree to Table
Apples are an ancient fruit, and have been grown by man for thousands of years. The basics of apple growing haven't changed much over the centuries, although in this century science and technology have become very important tools. Here's a summary of an apple's trip from the tree to your table:
Apples are grown on farms called orchards. Apple growers watch over their apple trees all year, pruning them during the winter, thinning blossoms during the spring to increase remaining fruits' size and color, mowing the grass and continuing to fight pests during the summer, and harvesting during the fall. By fall, the tree is so heavy with fruit that its branches can bend to the ground.
Apples bruise easily, so they must be picked from the tree by hand rather than by machine. Apple pickers use ladders to reach the fruit at the top of the tree, and place the picked fruit in cloth buckets worn over their shoulders. When full, these buckets are emptied into a big field bin – these are 4'x4' boxes, big enough to be used as a clubhouse by some children!
When the field bin is full, it is loaded on a truck with other bins full of apples and taken to a packing house. At the packing house, the fruit is stored in giant refrigerated warehouse rooms until the apples are sold. We use special kinds of warehouse rooms, called controlled atmosphere rooms, that allow us to store apples for up to a year after harvest. This storage technology ensures that you can have crispy, crunchy apples not just in the fall when they're picked, but all year long, too.
Once the apples are sold, they are the apples are washed and brushed to remove leaves and dust, and dried. The apples are then sorted into bags or boxes with other apples that are the same variety, size and color, and packed into cardboard cartons. The cartons are transported from the warehouse inside a refrigerated truck to your grocery store, your school cafeteria or your local restaurant. Some growers sell their apples themselves, at small stores on the orchard or at roadside stands, or at your community's farmer's market. You can also go to some orchards to pick and buy your own apples - that is a lot of fun!
Some of our apples go from the orchard to food processing plants to be made into apple auce, apple juice, apple slices for pies, apple chips, and other apple foods. About four of every 10 apples we grow are made into processed apple foods.
So, U.S. apples can arrive at your table in a number of ways – whether bought at a grocery store, farmstand or already prepared at a restaurant – and in a number of forms – perhaps simply sliced, or cooked into a delicious recipe, or processed into one of many processed apple foods. No matter how you eat your apples, now you can appreciate how they got from the tree to your table.
SOURCE: usapple.org, July 2007.