General Question

boxing's avatar

How do orchards harvest apples? Everytime I go apple picking, I wonder how they have picked them first and then left the rest to us...

Asked by boxing (1051points) October 2nd, 2008

Do they just hire people to work with cherry pickers? Or they use some kind of special picking machines or methods? It must be expensive to just hand-pick the apples, but maybe there is no other way.

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5 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Basically, they are hand harvested before they are ripe. Here is information on when they pick, followed by some on how they pick.

From University of Minnesota Extension: “The generally accepted commercial practice is to pick fruit before the onset of the respiratory climacteric. Unless your market is near your orchard and can absorb all of your fresh product, you will want to harvest your apples before they begin to ripen.

Commonly used harvest indexes are based on days from bloom, external and internal fruit color, flesh firmness, ease of separation from spurs, and starch, sugar, or acid content. No one index is a completely reliable measure of harvest readiness, but days from full bloom gives the most reliable guide.

Hand-pick fruit into bags, transfer gently into field bins, shade fruit in bins, then transport to packing sheds.”

From Dave’s Garden (emphasis is mine):“Things get more problematic if your tree is taller than ten or twelve feet. Special orchard ladders, with three legs, are expensive, and propping an extension ladder against a tree can risk a fall. In addition, the pickers need sacks hanging from their necks to hold the apples as they are gathered.”

basp's avatar

I’ve lived in a working apple orchard for fifteen years. They to hand pick them. They also hand prune them every year. The crop is labor intensive and requires constant monitoring for pests, water levels, weeds, and animal damage. (jack rabbits chew through irrigation lines to get water.) they typically have several pickings during harvest season. First they go for the best apples. Then the second grade apples, then the “juciers”. When they are done with the harvesting, local pig farmers would come in and take the “grounders”.

(by the way, if you need any tips on cooking with apples, I got plenty of them :) )

syz's avatar

I love the term “respiratory climacteric”!

kimigen's avatar

some apple orchards do use machine pickers because once you purchase the machines it is cheaper than hiring real people. the downside to the machines is their accuracy because they tend to leave a lot of apples on the tree.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@basp, we need to get together and share orchard stories. I worked at an orchard back in the early 90s.

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