Cherries do not contain stored carbohydrates like apples and pears, therefore have a shorter storage and shelf life, but good fruit quality can be maintained in cold storage for a couple of months. Cherries are difficult to handle because they are very susceptible to bruising (pitting), and extra care is taken on the packing line to eliminate mechanical injuries. Packers refer to a “cold-chain,” which signifies keeping cherries cool during the whole process chain (harvest through the packing process, shipping, retail markets, and until they are consumed.) To start the packing process, cherries float onto the packing line on flumes of water, which protect them from bruising and damage. Orchard debris and leaves are removed from the flumes with nets. The cherries go through a cluster cutter to cut stems of clusters into single fruit with shorter stems. Fruit is sorted and sized, either manually by trained personnel, or electronically, with a computer. With the computer sorter, multiple images of each cherry are taken, analyzed, and fruit are automatically sorted and sized. Fruit that were singled out are sorted again by hand for culls. Some operations hydro-cool fruit before packing to maintain fruit quality. Cherries are packed into a variety of boxes, clamshells, and bags by size and weight. Cartons are then labeled, palletized, shrink-wrapped and sent to cold storage or refrigerated trucks for shipping.
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