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Harvesting In The East And North

As the consummation of the care of the vine, the in-gathering of the
crop is celebrated in all European countries with rejoicings in song,
dance and mirth. In America the vintage is less of an event than in
Europe, but it is more picturesque and diverting than the harvest of
most other crops. It is work in which youth and old age, as well as
those in the prime of life in both sexes, can take part and is reputed
as a most healthful occupation. For these reasons, the grape harvest
in America, as in Europe, has somewhat the air of a holiday, so that
workers are usually readily found for the several operations of
harvesting. Laborers come as grapes begin to ripen from near-by cities
and towns and neighboring country-sides in such numbers that the care
of the crop is speedily accomplished.


As a rule, pickers are hired by the piece rather than by the day,
experience having demonstrated that so paid they do more and better
work. There is usually much diversity in race, age and condition of
life of pickers so that harmonious and efficient work is scarcely
possible without a competent foreman in charge who must often be
assisted by a sub-foreman. Efficient supervision doubles the picking
capacity of a gang of workers, and, moreover, is necessary to see that
the fruit is picked and packed with proper care. In hiring pickers, it
is usually stipulated that a part of the pay is to be reserved until
the close of the season; otherwise those disposed to have a holiday
leave when the weather becomes unpleasant or seek greener pastures
when the grapes become scarce.

Time to pick.

Unlike some fruits, grapes must not be picked until they are fully
ripe, as unripe grapes do not mature after picking. Grapes not matured
lack the necessary percentage of sugar and solids to keep well and
have not developed their full flavor. Many growers make the mistake of
sending grapes to the market before fully ripe, a mistake easily made
with some varieties because they acquire full color before full
maturity. Color, therefore, is not a good guide as to the time to
pick. In the northern and eastern states, late varieties of grapes may
be allowed to hang on the vines for some little time after maturity,
the late autumn suns giving them a higher degree of sweetness and
perfection. Some growers run the risks of light frosts to further
maturity and to secure the added advantage of the removal of many
leaves from the vines. Ripeness is indicated by a combination of signs
difficult to describe but easily learned by experience. These signs
are: first, a characteristic color; second, full development of flavor
and aroma; third, a softer texture of the pulp and a slight
thickening of the juice so that it is more or less sticky; fourth, the
ends of the stems turn from green to brown; fifth, the berries pull
more readily from their stems; sixth, the seeds are free or more
nearly free from the pulp and usually turn from green to brown.

Picking appliances.

But few appliances are needed in picking grapes. Shears are a
necessity. These are of special make and can be bought from dealers in
horticultural supplies, costing from 75 cents to $1. Some growers,
after picking, pack the fruit in the field in the receptacles in which
it is to go to market. The greater number, however, pick in trays
which are taken to the packing-house and allowed to stand until the
fruit is wilted before packing for shipment. Trays may be of several
sizes and shapes, but are usually shallow flats holding from
twenty-five to thirty-five pounds. The picked fruit is taken from the
vineyard to the packing-shed in a wagon with flexible springs to
prevent jarring and jolting. Large growers usually have specially
built one-horse platform wagons, the front wheels of which pass under
the platform.

Picking accounts.

It is no small matter to keep a picking account with pickers.
Business-like growers use one of several kinds of tickets or tags in
keeping accounts. Probably the most common method is to give a ticket
to the picker when the receptacle of grapes is delivered, the grower
either keeping half of the original or a duplicate of it. Objections
to ticket systems are that the pickers often lose the tickets, are
irregular in returning them, or exchange them with other pickers. To
obviate the disadvantages of tickets, some growers use tags which bear
the picker's name and are attached to his person. These tags have
marginal numbers or divisions which are canceled by a punch as
pickers deliver the grapes. Still another method is to keep book
accounts with each picker in which case payment is made by the pound,
each receptacle being put on the scales as brought in from the field,
credit being given for the number of pounds. It is the duty of those
in charge to see that each picker finishes the row or the part of the
row to which he is assigned, and that he does not wander over the
vineyard in search of the best picking.

Packing-houses and their appliances.

The commercial grape-grower must have a house for packing and storing.
Houses differ in design and fitting for almost every vineyard.
Sometimes the house is a combination one for packing and storing.
Often the packing-house is a halfway place between the vineyard and
the shipping station, in which case it is an open shed or a lightly
constructed building. In these field packing-houses there are usually
no provisions for storing. The better types of combined houses are
provided with a cellar for the storage of grapes, the first floor is
used for packing, and the attic provides a place for the storage of
baskets and crates. In all such houses provision must be made for
thorough ventilation, especially for the storage cellar if the grapes
are to be kept for any length of time. Properly ventilated, the
temperature of the grape cellar can be kept as low as 50 deg. F. during
September and October. The cellar floor in these houses is usually of
dirt better to regulate the moisture-content of the room. Often the
first floor is divided into two rooms, one to be used for
packing and the other as a shipping room. A good combination
packing-and-storage-house of this type can be built for $1000 to
$2000. Now that cold storage facilities can be secured in most
grape-growing regions, and the rates of storage are becoming more
reasonable, there is less need of storage-houses.

Packing-houses are so simple in construction and may be so different
in design that it is neither possible nor necessary to describe them
in detail. A building that protects the workers from the elements and
affords conveniences in packing serves the purpose. Such a
packing-house, which is often located in the vineyard, should be well
lighted, should be connected with the storage-room for baskets and
should have advantages for delivering the packages from the
storage-room to the packing-room and from the packing-room to the
shipping-room. Its size will depend on the quantities of grapes to be
packed. The house must be built so that it can be kept clean and

Every packing-house, whatever the design, must be furnished with
tables for holding the trays while the fruit is being packed. Usually
these tables are so made that the picking trays are set before the
packers on an inclined table. The packer transfers the grapes from the
trays into the baskets in which the fruit is to be sold. The trays of
grapes as they come from the field are set before the worker, who then
packs the fruit into the basket from the left. As the baskets are
filled, they are placed on a flat ledge or shelf in front of the
packer and are then taken off by an attendant. Empty baskets are
usually held in store on a higher shelf convenient to the packer and
from time to time are replenished by the attendant. Figure 46 shows a
packing-table of the kind just described. Sometimes the packing-table
is circular and revolves, the packers sitting about the table. The
baskets are held on the lap and the packer takes the grapes off the
table which is turned as fresh fruit is brought in. This circular
table is not in general use; its only advantage is that it permits the
packer to select from a larger quantity of fruit.

Grading grapes.

Grapes are more easily graded than most other fruits; for usually
there are but two grades, firsts and culls. It is difficult to specify
exactly what firsts are, since a number of factors must be considered
which bring in play the judgment of the grader. At least, firsts must
have the following qualities: The bunches must be approximately
uniform in size; there must be few or no berries missing from the
stems; the grapes must be fully ripe, of a uniform degree of ripeness
and uniformly colored; and the fruit must be free from insect and
fungous injuries. It is easier to give specifications for culls, since
all grapes not firsts are culls.

In large vineyards, only good fruit or the best fruit is worth
grading. It is more advisable to sell poor fruit by the ton with
little or no grading. It follows, also, that the higher the price, the
more special the market, and the more carefully the crop is picked,
the more profitable it is to grade. The work of grading is done in the
packing-shed when the fruit is transferred from the trays into the
selling receptacles. A pair of slender scissors made for the purpose,
to be purchased from dealers in horticultural supplies, is used to
trim out diseased and crushed berries. The fruit must be permitted to
wilt for a few hours, a half day or overnight, before it can be graded
to advantage. In this work of grading, the greatest care should be
taken to keep the fruit clean and fresh, to sort out broken bunches
and to preserve the bloom. The less handling, the more finely finished
is the product.

Grape packages in eastern grape regions.

Packages for grapes are less varied than those for any other fruit,
selling receptacles in the states east of the Rocky Mountains being
much the same for all regions. Dessert grapes are universally packed
in gift packages--that is, packages which are given away when the
fruit is sold--and this insures a clean dainty package. It seems
imperative that a uniform style of package should be used the country
over for the general market, but up until this time, although there
have been both national and state laws passed, uniformity has not been
secured. A national law is needed establishing standard commercial
packages so that the grower may safely ship from one state to another
without being a law-breaker. Such a package should be based on
cubic-measure and not on weight as is often advocated; for grapes
cannot be shipped without some loss from sampling in transit; and
there are also losses in weight by evaporation so that the grower,
although trying to comply with the law, may become technically a
law-breaker if the standard is based on weight.

The most popular package for the grape in eastern grape regions is the
Climax basket made in various styles and sizes. These are cheap,
easily packed and handled, nest well in shipment and are durable.
Three sizes are commonest in use, the five-pound, the ten-pound and
the twenty-pound basket. The five-pound basket usually holds only a
little over four pounds; the ten-pound about eight pounds; and the
twenty-pound rather less than twenty pounds. Two sizes of Climax
baskets are shown in Fig. 47. It is commonly understood, however, that
the packages are short in weight, and as grapes are retailed by the
basket and not by the pound, short weight does not really deceive.

These baskets are made of thin wood veneer with a light wood binding
at the top and bottom. The cover is of wood and is usually fastened on
with staples. The handle is either of wood or of wire. When well made,
the baskets are firm and symmetrical, without splinters and are clean
and white. Packages carried over from year to year become dingy in
color, but the wood may be whitened by fumigating in the storage-room
with sulfur. The baskets also become yellow and discolored if left in
the sun and must, therefore, be stored in clean, dark, dry rooms.

When grapes are sold by weight to manufacturers of wine or
grape-juice, they are usually delivered in the picking trays which, if
the market is near at hand, are always returned. If they are to be
shipped far, they go to market in twenty-pound baskets or bushel
baskets, although the latter are not regarded with favor by consumers.


Grapes packed indoors, as has been said, are allowed to stand from a
few to twenty-four hours after being picked to permit them to wilt.
When thus wilted they are much more easily packed and do not shrink in
transportation, so that the basket usually reaches the market well
filled with fruit. Each bunch of grapes is placed separately in the
basket after all unmarketable berries have been removed. The bunches
are arranged in concentric tiers, the top layer being placed with
special care. When the basket is filled, the grapes rise a little
above the level of the basket, care being taken not to have the fruit
project too much so that the grapes will be crushed when putting on
the cover. In all this work, the berries are handled as little as
possible, so as not to destroy the bloom. Care is taken, also, that
the fruit is free from spraying material and is otherwise clean and
fresh. Much less pains need be taken when the grapes are packed in
trays to be sold by weight, but even in this there must be method in
filling the trays, otherwise there will be many open spaces and
corners between bunches.

Practically all commercial grape-growers now use labels on their
packages. These not only add to the attractiveness of the packages,
but are a guarantee of the contents, both as to name of the variety
and the quality of the fruit. These labels are, also, a sign by which
a grower's fruit may be distinguished and are, therefore, a valuable
advertising medium. Some growers have registered their labels in the
United States Patent Office in order to prevent others from using
them. Obviously, it is not desirable or worth while to label a poor
grade of grapes.

Storing grapes.

The commercial grape-grower now stores his grapes in cold storage
warehouses if he keeps them any length of time after harvesting. There
is no question but that keeping a part of the crop in artificially
cooled houses is a great benefit to the grape-grower, since it
prolongs the season for selling by some three or four months.
Formerly, native grapes could be secured in general markets only until
Thanksgiving time or thereabouts, but now American grapes are very
generally offered for sale in January and February, while the European
grapes from California are in the market nearly the year around. The
grape-grower need make little or no preparation of his product in
putting it in cold storage except to make sure that the product is
first class in every respect. It would be a waste of money and effort
to attempt to store any but clean, sound, well-matured, well-packed
grapes. The grape-grower, however, seldom need concern himself with
storing, since the crop is usually stored by the buyers.

Few small growers seem to have learned the art of keeping grapes in
common storage, There are but few difficulties in keeping European
grapes for several months after picking if they are stored under
favorable conditions. Not all, but several of the native grapes may
also be kept practically throughout the winter if proper precautions
are taken. Among these varieties Catawba is the standard winter sort,
but Diana, Iona, Isabella, Rogers' hybrids and Vergennes, all rather
commonly grown, may be kept by the small grower.

To insure keeping, these native grapes must be handled most carefully.
The fruit is picked a few days before it is dead ripe and the bunches
placed in trays holding forty or fifty pounds. It is important that
the temperature be reduced gradually so that there are no sudden
changes. If the nights are cool, a valuable aid is to leave the grapes
out-of-doors in crates the night after they are picked, placing them
in a cool building or dry cellar early the next morning. The cellar or
store-room should be well ventilated and should be such that the
temperature is not variable, care being taken that the air in every
part of the storage room is changed. Draughts, however, should be
avoided or stems and berries will shrivel. If a temperature from 40 deg.
to 50 deg. can be maintained, the varieties named may be kept until March
or April. An expensive store-room is not necessary and ice to cool the
room is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

If the storage-room is too dry, the grapes wilt and lose flavor; if,
on the other hand, the atmosphere is too damp, the grapes mold. It is
essential, therefore, to strike a medium between an atmosphere too dry
and one too wet. It is possible that a light fumigation with sulfur or
formaldehyde might help to keep down molds in these common storage
grape-rooms, but as to the value of fumigation there seems to be no
experimental evidence.

Grapes grown on clay lands are said to be firmer and to keep better
than those grown on gravel or lighter soils. Some years ago there was
an association in Ohio known as The Clay-Growers Association which
handled only grapes grown on clay lands. The members of this
association believed that their grapes were much more desirable for
storage than grapes from regions where the soil was lighter.

Next: Harvesting And Handling Muscadine Grapes

Previous: Marketing The Crops And Vineyard Returns

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