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Handling The Grape In California

Grapes are grown in California for three purposes, wine, raisins and
the table. The handling of the crop for raisins and wine is best taken
up in a discussion of these products in the chapter on by-products of
the grape, leaving only table grapes to be discussed at this place.

The table-grape industry of the Pacific slope is dependent on the wide
distribution of the product in eastern markets for a profitable sale
of the crop, since production is so great that but a small part of the
crop is consumed in the markets of the Pacific slope. The growers in
this region, therefore, have special problems, chief of which are
those of successful shipment over long distances. California annually
ships in the neighborhood of 10,000 carloads of table grapes, all of
which must be handled within a period of about two months. As
competition increases, it becomes more and more necessary to extend
the area over which the fruit is to be sold; to lengthen the marketing
season through cold storage; and for both of these purposes to devise
new or to improve present methods of handling the fruit. The two
requisites for the successful shipment of this great bulk of grapes
are: The fruit must reach the markets in sound condition; and it must
have sufficient market-holding quality to remain sound for a
considerable length of time after it arrives in the markets.
Experience has thoroughly demonstrated to grape-growers in California
that decay in grapes is largely dependent on the presence of injuries
to the grape berries, to the pedicels or to the stems of the bunches.
Methods of handling grapes, therefore, and the type of package used,
must be such that the product is injured as little as possible.

Careful handling.

In the shipment of European grapes from California, it has been found
that it pays to go to much extra trouble in handling the crop. The
bunches are picked with care to avoid bruising or crushing berries,
and as far as possible they are lifted only by the main stems. They
are then laid with care in the picking trays which are filled only one
layer deep. In moving the trays to the packing-house, they are handled
carefully, the trays being moved only on wagons with springs. In
sorting, special care is taken to remove all injured and unsound
berries and not to injure others in the bunch, here again handling the
clusters by the stems. In packing, the bunches are placed firmly in
the baskets with care not to crush or bruise the stems or to injure
the pedicels of the berries. A slight injury of either berry or
pedicel permits the spores of the fungus causing decay to gain
entrance into the fruit.

Shipping packages.

The most common package for table-grapes in California is a square
basket holding about five pounds. These baskets are placed for
shipment in fours in crates. The bunches of some varieties may be too
large for these small baskets, and these extra large-clustered grapes
are packed in oblong baskets holding in the neighborhood of eight
pounds, two baskets filling a crate. No good filler seems yet to have
been devised for packing grapes in California. The cork dust in which
grapes from the Mediterranean are received is not available and a good
substitute has not yet been found. Sawdust is sometimes used but has
not proved satisfactory in holding the decay and the fruit absorbs
disagreeable flavors from the wood. Occasionally, however, grapes from
California are sent to eastern markets packed in dry redwood sawdust
and these seem to come through in good condition and not to have
absorbed a disagreeable flavor. Reports seem to indicate that this
specially selected redwood sawdust is proving much better than the
ordinary sawdust experimented with some years ago.


Considerable work has been done by the United States Department of
Agriculture to determine how table-grapes could best be shipped from
the far West and reach the eastern markets in good condition. The crop
is, of course, shipped in refrigerator cars and much depends on the
cooling of these cars and especially on the temperature at which the
grapes are kept while in transit. To carry well over the 3000 miles of
mountain and desert, heat and cold, the best type of refrigerator car
must be used. It does not appear that the pre-cooling so advantageous
to citrous and other tree-fruits is worth the trouble and expense with
table-grapes, as it does not seem to prevent decay. Cooling cannot be
substituted for careful handling, which seems as yet the most
necessary precaution to be taken in the preparation of these grapes
for eastern shipment.

Next: Marketing

Previous: Harvesting And Handling Muscadine Grapes

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