Storing Table Grapes

Most of the table grape varieties grown in a temperate climate store well in a typical farm cold storage for at least seven to 10 days. With a little effort, that time period may be lengthened. Desiccation and decay are the storage hazards of table grapes. Fumigation, the use of sulfur dioxide pads or other fungicidal techniques combat storage diseases of grapes in large commercial operations (Zabadal et al., 1988). Put only healthy, dry grapes into storage. Pick grapes for storage early in the harvest period when they are acceptably ripe rather than later when they are overripe.

The cluster stem (rachis) is the most vulnerable portion of the cluster to water loss. Browning of cluster stems can occur when clusters have lost as little as 5% of their weight because of desiccation. Some relatively easy steps can reduce fruit desiccation. Harvest fruit as cool as possible and transport it quickly to cold storage. Even under temperate-climate conditions, place containers of harvested grapes into cold storage at frequent intervals through the day. Cooling grapes as soon as possible after picking is very important. One research study indicated that for every hour grapes were held at 90°F after picking, they lost one week of storage life at 32°F (Nelson, 1985). Forced-air cooling is used in large commercial operations to remove the field heat from table grapes quickly. Small isst

commercial growers can also utilize this technology (Zabadal et al., 1988).

Store table grapes as close to 32°F as possible without exposing them to freezing. High humidity in the cold storage is very desirable. Some storage facilities can maintain 95 to 98% relative humidity. At high relative humidities, the cold storage temperature must be held constant to avoid condensation on the fruit. If grapes can be stored at a relatively constant temperature, then moisture barriers such as polyethylene bags around individual picking lugs or shrink wrapping of pallets with stacked master containers can help reduce desiccation.

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