- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
A group of 22 produce executives and supervisors from the SaveMart Corporation - which includes Lucky and FoodMaxx grocery stores - spent a morning at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center today to experience another part of the food journey.
The visitors were the guests of Carlos Crisosto, UC Cooperative Extension postharvest physiologist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. They toured the F. Gordon Mitchell Postharvest Laboratory, which includes 18 controlled temperature and relative humidity rooms, eight of which are capable of controlled atmospheres. Years of work in the state-of-the-art facility by Crisosto and his colleagues resulted in a completely new protocol for handling peaches, plums and nectarines as they journey from the farm, to packing sheds, in the backs of trucks to distribution centers and finally to the supermarket produce aisle.
The findings came as a surprise to the industry when they were introduced nearly 10 years ago, but they have been widely adopted. In a nutshell, fruit is now "preconditioned" before it is cooled, a process that results in better tasting fruit, and subsequently, better sales of this Central California summertime staple.
The SaveMart tour continued in the field, where the group saw research plots of kiwifruit, pistachios, stone fruit, grapes, blueberries and other crops. A highlight was the fresh fig orchard, where all the participants hopped off the tram to pick and eat the tree-ripened fruit.