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.

Harvesting And Handling Muscadine Grapes Hayes facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail