An apple's year-long trip to the table
Posted: Nov 21, 2012 6:14 AM MT
Last Updated: Nov 20, 2012 8:01 PM MT
An apple’s trip from the orchard to the grocery store in Canada can last up to a year.
CBC News Calgary took a closer look at the popular fruit as part of an investigation into Canada’s food system.
The journey of a brand new breed of apple, Salish, began in British Columbia, where the province’s apple industry is fighting hard not to be uprooted by its American competition — Washington growers who often underprice Canadian apples.
One way the industry fights back is through breeding special kinds of apples that consumers will want to buy. The Salish apple wasn’t necessarily bred to be extremely delicious, it was bred to handle storage well, which allows it to be sold for longer periods throughout the year.
Stored for months
After an apple is picked, it is sent to the BC Tree Fruits packing house in Kelowna, where it is put in a controlled atmosphere storage room.
“We pack this room completely full,” said Hank Markgraph, field services manager.
“We close this very big door and we draw out all the oxygen and the CO2 out and we replace it with nitrogen gas. Once that's done, if you take a look at this door behind us, there's a little door behind the big door. If we need to check anything we have special trained cold storage operators, they can open the door, but they always have to wear masks because there is no oxygen in this room, they would suffocate.”
The apples hibernate, in a sense, and when they’re pulled out they wake up and are expected to be as fresh and crispy as when they went inside the room. Apples can be eaten up to a year after they are harvested if they are stored properly.
“What we do is take sub-samples and put them right in front of the door. Every month we take sub-samples of the sub-samples and test them for seven days at 70 degrees at as close to 100 per cent humidity as we can, and see how they react to that,” said Markgraph.
The grocery stores send trucks out to pick up boxes of apples to bring back to the stores.
Bred for storage
The Salish apple was the result of decades of work at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Institute in Summerland, B.C.
Cheryl Hampson, the scientist who oversaw the final years of its development, stressed how the institute’s job is to only produce varieties that are better than or can replace something already on the market.
“The first step ... is choose the varieties of apples you want to use as parents. Varieties of apples are not species, they're all apples. They're like kinds of tulips or dogs. So you choose which parent you want to use.”
The apples aren’t genetically modified — researchers pollinate the blossoms by hand and then collect the seeds from the resulting apples.
“Those are the ones with that have a mixture of the DNA from the parents, that might have a chance of being what you are looking for.”
Shoppers look, don't taste
Hampson said even though we might think we choose apples because of how they taste, that's not how we shop for them.
“When you're buying apples at the market, you don't get a chance to taste them before you buy. If it has cosmetic flaws or it's not as attractive as another apple and you might not buy it. And then when you take it home it has to have good texture. If it doesn't the flavour is irrelevant. If it has good texture, then you can go on to say you like the flavour or don't like the flavour.”
The Salish apple was designed to keep well, because the packing and storage phase is crucial to the texture, appearance and taste of the fruit. This new variety of apple will be available to buy in Alberta sometime next year.
Latest Calgary News Headlines
- 6 youth charged in airport car theft ring
- Six youth have been charged in connection to a string of car thefts at the Calgary airport. more »
- Security cameras for Calgary taxis may soon be mandatory
- A new measure approved by a city committee Wednesday is taking a step towards making security cameras mandatory for Calgary taxis. more »
- 'We made a mistake,' Horne says on 1st-available bed policy
- Alberta's Health Minister Fred Horne conceded in an interview with CBC Radio One on Wednesday that the first-available bed policy was a mistake. more »
- City officials hopeful 'pop-up park' will open in August
- Calgary's transportation committee is hoping to get a bylaw approved Wednesday for a pop-up park, or street park. more »
Top News Headlines
- Obesity now recognized as a disease
- The American Medical Association has voted to recognize obesity as a disease, while doctors in Canada say they also treat it as such. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Washington's obsession with leakers
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are just the most prominent targets in an all-out legal and propaganda campaign that America's security apparatus is mounting against leakers everywhere, Neil Macdonald writes. more »
- Caregiving dads stigmatized at work suggests UofT study
- Fathers who participate in child rearing and housework are likely to be labeled slackers and "failed men" at work, according to a study spearheaded by researchers at the University of Toronto and Long Island University. Are active dads the norm at your workplace? more »
- Dozens of children seized from Manitoba Mennonite community
- Child welfare authorities have removed all but one child from a small Mennonite community in rural Manitoba. more »
- Motorcyclist takes photos of wolf chasing him on highway
- Brazilian man blinded by stray bullet embarks on new career
- Violent serial attacker sent to prison indefinitely
- Calgary's new school construction comes with condition
- Loblaw testing small discount-store format in Calgary
- 6 ways to have a picnic in Calgary
- Post-secondary students feel stressed, survey finds
- City officials hopeful 'pop-up park' will open in August
- Illegal use of disabled parking spots on rise, officials say