Testing for maturity — as opposed to ripeness — before harvesting is not limited to Chile. It’s a concept that is gaining traction among U.S. growers and shippers, as well.
“We’re hoping by the time it gets to the retail level, the fruit is ready to ripen,” said John Fagundes, partner with Hanford, Calif.-based Cal Harvest Marketing Inc.
“As soon as it breaks cold storage, it should ripen successfully. We use a more advanced maturity testing. We’re using the dry weight testing procedure, which is far superior than the refract meter, which is only a judge of ripeness. We’re using dry weight, which is a judge of maturity of the fruit.”
A piece of fruit that is harvested before it is fully mature won’t fully ripen, Fagundes noted.
“It’s really important, especially in early pickings, to make sure the fruit is mature enough to have full ripening potential, so the consumer has a full appreciation of kiwifruit,” he said. “A lot of early fruit is not mature enough. You have to do the secondary tests to make sure it’s mature enough.”
Testing for maturity takes a bit longer, but it is worth the wait, Fagundes added.
“This test takes about 24 hours, but it doesn’t cost much more,” he said.
There’s always a temptation to save time and get fruit to market quickly, especially if there’s a season-to-season market gap, said Michael Ohki, owner of Winton, Calif.-based Ohki Farms.
“People try to go into the market early; they see a window where the prices are higher and end up selling green fruit that didn’t ripen properly,” he said. “That turns off consumers. Everyone is chasing that dollar and don’t care about their neighbor.”
Chile’s new committee is taking aim at that concern, said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager with Fresno, Calif.-based Stellar Distributing.
“Some guys out of Chile take on the same standard as California,” he said. “They’re different growing regions, but they’re trying to make a statement of top quality and the most edible piece of fruit they can get out there.”