Pick and Handle Your Cherries Carefully

By , On , In Best Practices

2020’s cherry season is underway, with a rough start this year. Historically, in the Okanagan, cherry crops are incredibly susceptible to weather-related problems and multiple other factors. This means that the cherry harvests are either lucrative or unprofitable. This year’s crop has been relatively dismal, due to unusual weather patterns, a winter cold snap and an early frost, yet growers are optimistic that they will recover. 

So, weather aside, what can you do to ensure that you protect the already fragile cherries?

The harvest, handling and packing of cherries can all have an impact on the storage life and quality of the fruit in general. 

The quality of your cherries cannot be improved after picking, but can be degraded. Most of the bruising and visible pitting, as a result of damages incurred during picking and handling, will only be visible once the cherry has reached the store. This can be problematic, as the cherry supplier does not see the damages, yet the disgruntled consumer certainly will.

Let’s look at picking. In a survey conducted a while back in 2008, it was concluded that 50% or more of the pits and bruises in fruits were a result of the picking operation. This is the first crucial stage in fruit quality and storage life.

Good cherry storage and shipping life, as well as low levels of pitting and stem browning, can only be achieved with good picking styles and habits. A good picking style also reduces picking fatigue and ensures productivity. 

When harvesting your cherry crop, keep these simple tips in mind:

  • Good ladder placement technique, good posture (avoid reaching when picking). Ladder placement, picker experience and picker style can directly affect the quality of the fruit. Cherries should always be picked from the stem, to avoid holding and damaging the fruit
  • Metal or plastic picking buckets can increase the bruising of cherries. Padding the metal buckets or plastic containers or using corrugated plastic totes  will reduce injury
  • Ensure that the dropping of cherries when picking is minimised; ensure all pickers have been fully trained on the proper picking and handling of the fruit
  • Never drop a cherry more than 20cm (8 inches) into any picking container
  • Protect the cherries from the sun and low humidity using reflective traps or white shade cloths to cover bins
  • Picking should stop before the temperatures rises above 27 degrees Celsius, or they will show higher levels of stem browning, moisture loss and pitting
  • Do now allow cooled fruit to be warmed again; manage the cherry cooling in stages
  • Deliver fruit to the packaging house as soon as you can and encourage multiple deliveries per day 
  • More mature fruit is less susceptible to pitting injury. Later harvested cherries are also more acidic and this may improve flavour quality, which is primarily determined by the soluble solids and acidity of the fruits 

Following the above tips and tricks, will help you ensure a more successful cherry harvest and increase quality of fruits produced.

Let us know if you have any questions! Growers Supply is always here to help and assist you as best as possible.