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Classic painting of harvested strawberries from webshots.com.

The neatly arranged packs of red, ripe strawberries you see in the store are the culmination of months of work preparing, growing, harvesting and marketing this beautiful fruit. Of these steps, harvesting is the most exciting part of the process because we growers get to take what nature has given to us and pack it into eye-popping arrangements that people enjoy all over the world.

Remember, strawberries are picked at their peak of juicy freshness and do not ripen after harvesting. So, when buying strawberries select ones that are bright red in color, have a natural sheen, with fresh-looking green caps. Store strawberries in the refrigerator and do not wash them until you are ready to eat them. Just before using, wash strawberries with the caps attached. For best flavor, allow the strawberries to reach room temperature before serving. They are delicate –and only good for a few days - so eat them as soon as possible after you buy them.

A typical strawberry plant in mid-season with flowers and berries in all sizes and stages of maturity. After the flowers bloom, it usually takes about one month before the strawberries are ripe. The best part about strawberry plants is that they’ll keep blooming and producing fruit during the harvest season. When you look at a plant during harvest season, you’ll see strawberries in many different stages of development: flowers, tiny green berries, larger green berries, big white berries and finaly ripe red berries.

Each plant is picked two or three times a week. Strawberries are picked at the peak of juicy ripeness and do not ripen any more once picked. All strawberries are picked, sorted and packed into boxes by hand in the field (see packed box at left ). It is considered an art to pick strawberries, since they are very fragile and bruise easily.

At Manzanita Berry Farms, we take pride in raising Well-Pict berries, the finest strawberries in the world! That is not to say other growers don't have good fruit. We mean that because of our special care in raising the crop, the superb breeding in every plant and the skill and dedication of our workforce, our fruit is larger, sweeter and more highly sought after at home and abroad.

Colorfully dressed worker arranges berries neatly in clear plastic clamshell containers.Carefully picking the berries from the plants and arranging them in the neat boxes you see in the store requires the talents and efforts of a great many hand laborers (see Workforce) trained in the art of strawberry harvesting.

Strawberry harvesters

For a wide angle view of the field harvest click Here

Pallets are lined up in front of large vacumm fans that pull out the heat.After picking, strawberries are rushed to cooling facilities where the field heat is sucked out of the berries using large fans in cold rooms (see picture at right) bringing the fruit temperature down to 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Tops of pallets are sealed over with tarps forcing the cool air to travel through all the boxes evenly. Temperature sensors are placed inside the pallets of fruit to monitor the cooling process and alert cooling staff when fruit is finished. The cooled fruit is then placed in holding rooms at 33-34 degrees until loaded on refrigerated trucks headed to market.

Within 24 hours of harvest, strawberries are loaded on refrigerated trucks for delivery to stores and buyers across the country. Keeping this highly perishable fruit cool is critical if it is to reach consumers in perfect condition, and trucks are required to keep the berry loads at a steady 33-34 degrees all the way to the buyers store.

If you didn't already know, California strawberry growers have instituted a voluntary Quality Assurance Program (QAP) that is being used as a model for other produce industries. The California Strawberry Commission has published QAP guidelines for farmers to use in developing their own food safety program.

Before, during and after harvesting strawberries, growers are careful to adhere to rigid safety principles to ensure a safe, wholesome product reaches the store shelf. To assure our customers of the absolute safety of our produce we also submit voluntarily to an Independent Third Party Audit which quantifies the measures taken to ensure safe fruit reaches our consumers.

Below is a summary of the steps we take to assure our buyers and consumers they are getting only the safest product available:

A. Prior to planting, we ensure the crop site is safe from potential problems such as contaminated soil, runoff from adjacent contaminated areas or livestock corrals where manure is present and might drain onto or be blown onto the crop site.

Strawberry beds are covered with plastic, seen here during planting, which keeps fruit off of the soil. B. During ground preparation we take steps to maintain the cleanliness of the crop site such as fumigating the soil and covering planting beds with solid plastic.

C. During the growing season we adhere to strict safety and sanitation guidelines with respect to irrigation water quality, pesticide applications and manual labor tasks in the field.

Look for this logo on our Links page.D. Harvest season is the most demanding in terms of food safety. This is when we adhere to the strictest safety guidelines for edible crops. For more background on food safety issues relating to agricultural products, visit our official Third Party Auditor, Davis Fresh Technologies, from our Links page.

For additional nutritional/health data on strawberries, see the California Strawberry Commission web site.

 


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