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MORE CARE IS NEEDED

IN HANDLING
WESTERN CANTALOUPES



GEORGE L. FISCHER,
Investigator,

and

ARTHUR E. NELSON,
Assistant in Marketing




UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
BUREAU OF MARKETS

CHARLES J. BRAND, Chief



Markets Doc. it



Washington, D. C.



May, 1918



SUMMARY.

E annual production of cantaloupes in the western states
of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Colorado
is approximately 4,000,000 standard crates of 45 melons each.

More than 10 per cent of these melons reach the consumer
so green that they are practically worthless for food.

To insure desirable eating and keeping quality, western can-
taloupes for long-distance shipment should be picked just be-
fore they reach the full-slip stage of maturity.

The carrying and keeping quality of cantaloupes is directly
dependent upon the care exercised in harvesting and preparing
them for shipment.

Many weaknesses in present commercial practices can be
corrected readily, and serious losses from deterioration or spoil-
age prevented.

The most careful handling of cantaloupes is as essential in
all operations of distribution to dealers and consumers as in
preparing the melons for shipment.

The time which elapses between picking and loading of canta-
loupes into iced refrigerator cars determines very largely the
amount of overripe and decayed melons delivered at the
markets.

After picking, cantaloupes should be loaded as soon as pos-
sible into iced refrigerator cars for shipment.

Cantaloupes should not be wrapped. Wrapped cantaloupes
do not refrigerate as well in transit nor do they reach con-
sumers in as good condition as do cantaloupes not wrapped.



MORE CARE IS NEEDED IN HANDLING WESTERN
CANTALOUPES.



CONTENTS.
Page.



General considerations

Cantaloupes for long-distance shipment

should be picked just before full slip....

Cantaloupes should be handled more care-



fully



Page.



Cantaloupes should be loaded into iced
refrigerator cars as soon as possible
after picking 7

Cantaloupes should not be wrapped 8



GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS.

United States Department of Agriculture estimated the total
cantaloupe production of the United States for 1916 at approxi-
mately 8,000,000 standard crates of 45 melons each. The total produc-
tion for 1917 was forecasted on July 1, 1917, at an increase over 1916
ef over half a million crates. Of the total annual production, 4,000,000
crates, or approximately one-half of the crop, is produced in the States
of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. The
larger part of the crop from these Western States is shipped to Middle
Western and Eastern markets.

The requirements and commercial practices of harvesting and pre-
paring cantaloupes for shipment are similar in most respects in all of
the large producing sections of the West. This is especially true with
regard to the fundamental factors of maturity at time of picking, the
care exercised to prevent injury in all handling operations, the
wrapping, and the promptness with which cantaloupes are loaded for
shipment.

During the shipping season of 1916 the United States Department
of Agriculture conducted some preliminary investigations to deter-
mine the relation of the commercial practices of harvesting and pre-
paring cantaloupes for shipment to carrying and keeping qualities in
transit and during distribution to consumers. These investigations
were continued on a more extensive scale during the shipping season
of 1917 in the principal producing sections of California, Arizona, and
Colorado, and at centers of consumption, including New York, Phila-
delphia, and Pittsburgh, in order to demonstrate the practicability of

3



4 MOKK t'.YKK XKKDKD IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.

improving the present commercial handling practices and thereby
reducing losses in transit. This publication presents some of the more
important results of these investigations.

CANTALOUPES FOR LONG-DISTANCE SHIPMENT SHOULD BE PICKED
JUST BEFORE FULL SLIP.

It has. been ascertained through careful investigation that at certain
periods fully one-fourth of the cantaloupes are so immature when they
reach consumers that they are not palatable or even of fair eating
(juality. This is largely due to the fact that often, in fact usually,
cantaloupes are picked so immature that they do not ripen properly
after arrival at market. When cantaloupes which have been picked too
green reach market their flesh lacks proper color, texture, and flavor.
Instead of ripening normally they shrivel and the meat remains tough,
lacking entirely the rich cantaloupe flavor. While it is necessary that
they be picked before they are fully ripe in order to insure the neces-
sary keeping quality in transit, they can be picked at. a stage of
maturity that will insure good flavor as well as keeping quality.

To insure the best eating quality when they reach consumers, canta-
loupes should be picked just after they will slip cleanly from the stem ;
that is, at the full-slip stage of maturity. If properly handled and
promptly loaded, they will carry in satisfactory condition even to the
far Eastern markets. Allowance must be made, however, for a certain
amount of rough handling and for some delay in transit. As a general
rule, therefore, cantaloupes should be picked just before they reach the
full-slip stage. Such melons will possess not only desirable eating
quality, but also the necessary carrying quality.

Ordinarily many cantaloupes are picked at various stages of
maturity before that of full slip, or at what is commonly called half
slip.' A considerable percentage of these never ripen in transit, and are
practically worthless for food.

Green melons have a depressing effect on both demand and price.
It only 1 per cent of the annual production in the Western States
should be picked and shipped green, consumers would buy more than
4 0,000 crates of cantaloupes that have nothing to recommend them as
food. Instead of only 1 per cent fully 10 per cent are green when they
reach far-distant consumers.

If cantaloupes are to be in transit 10 days or more, it is advisable
to pick them just before they reach the full-slip stage of maturity. This
conclusion is based on inspections of comparative shipments of Pollock
cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley and Turlock districts of Cali-
fornia to New York City during the seasons of 1916 and 1917. Table 1
gives the average results of inspections of 29 shipments.



MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.



TABLE 1. Average percentages illustrating the differences in firmness, color,
decay, ripeness, and "cukieness" of cantaloupes picked on the full slip, just
before full slip, and commercially, season 1917.



Time of inspection at j
New York Citv |


Just after unloading from
refrigerator cars.


Two days later.




Viewpoint of inspector .


Dealer.


Consumer.




Picked ' <


On

full
slip.


Just be-
fore
full slip.


Commer-
cially.


On
full
slip.


Just be-
fore
full slip.


Commer-
cially.




Cantaloupes :
Too SOFT to be desirable. .

Too YELLOW from stand-
point of ripeness. . . .


Per cent.
12.7

11.5
.1

>
N


Per cent.
9.7

2.2
.1
ot recprdec
ot recordet


Per cent.
13.4

6.1
.3
1.

L


Per cent.

17.7

27.0
3.1
3.5
.1


Per cent.
11.6

10.7
.4
1.1
1.9


Per cent.
20.7

14.9
5.1
1.4
13.9


DECAYED enough to spoil
for food


MEAT Too RIPE to be de-
sirable


MEAT "CUKIE" or of
tough, immature texture



CANTALOUPES SHOULD BE HANDLED MORE CAREFULLY.

The carrying and keeping quality of cantaloupes is directly de-
pendent on the care exercised in harvesting and preparation for ship-
ment to prevent mechanical injuries. The present commercial handling
practices are unnecessarily rough, and are responsible for a large
amount of decay and spoilage of cantaloupes in transit and after
arrival at market. These conclusions /ire based on inspections of com-
parative shipments of Pollock cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley
and Turlock districts, California, to New York City during the seasons
of 1916 and 1917. Table 2 and figure 1 give the average results of 20
experimental shipments from Turlock, Cal.

TABLE 2. Average percentages of deterioration in 20 experimental ship-
ments of carefully and commercially handled cantaloupes shipped to New
York City during the season of 1911.



I


Just after
unloading from
refrigerator cars.


Two days later.


. )




Dealer.


Consumer.




Handling in harvesting and preparation for ship- \


Commer-
cial.


Care-
ful.


Commer-
cial.


Care-
ful.




Cantaloupe^ :


Per cent.
0.5
2.4
Not rc(


Per cent.
0.0
.5
,ordod.


Per cent.
6.0
9.2

11.7


Per cent.

0.4
.3
3.5




SPOIIFO for food by BRUISING only





MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.



TVMD days after unloading from refrigerator cars at New\brk.



, Cantaloupes .
badfy decayed.

In crates commercially
handled when harvested
and prepared for shipment. 6.0 per cent.1

In crates carefully

handled when harvested

and prepared for shipment. Q4 percent!



Per cent badly decayed cantaloupes.
1 2345 6769 10 11 12



badly molded.

In crates commercially
handled when harvested
and prepared for shipping.

In crates carefully

handled when harvested
and prepared for shipment.



Par cent badly molded cantaloupes.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 6 9 SO li J2



$2 percentl



Q 3 percentB



Cantaloupes
spoiled by bruising.

In crates commercially
handled when harvested
and prepared for shipment. lL7percent.|

In crates carefully

handled when harvested

and prepared for shipment. 3i 5 per cent.]



Per cent cantaloupes spoiled by bruising.

01 23456789 10 11 12
I i i i i i i i i i i i i



FIG. 1. Diagram illustrating average percentages of deterioration in 20 experimental shipments
of carefully and commercially handled cantaloupes shipped to New York City during the season
of 1917.

From the standpoint of minimizing bruising or other mechanical
injury, many weaknesses in present handling practices may be cor-
rected readily by reasonable attention to equipment and labor.

The regulation lemon or orange picking bags, made of fairly heavy
canvas and equipped with shoulder straps, are preferable to the burlap
or grain sacks commonly used. Sacks without shoulder straps are
constantly being raised *and lowered and dragged over the ground by
the pickers. A large percentage of commercially handled cantaloupes
are bruised in this manner. Bags with shoulder straps leave the
bands of the pickers free, and the openings at the bottoms permit the
bags to be lowered into the crates and so lifted that the melons will
roll out gently.

No cantaloupes should project above the top edges of the field crates.
It this precaution is neglected, the top crates when loaded on the field
wagon will rest on the projecting melons in the crates below, and
serious bruising will inevitably occur.



MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES. 7

When unloaded from field wagons crates should be stacked with care
to avoid dropping or other jarring. Cantaloupes from field crates
should be graded or emptied carefully into packing bins without unnec-
essary throwing, dropping, or rolling. The lining of packing bins
should be made of soft material, or, if made of boards, should be well
padded to prevent bruising.

During the operation of packing, cantaloupes should be placed care-
fully in the crates and not dropped or tossed into place, as is frequently
done. Injury caused by squeezing can be prevented if packers are
careful not to force in oversized melons when finishing crates.

Cantaloupes should be packed so that the tops of the crates bulge
slightly when cover slats are nailed on. If the tops of the crates
bulge too much, the cantaloupes become squeezed and bruised, which
causes spoilage later.

Packed crates require just as careful handling as do individual
melons prior to packing. They should be stacked only on their sides,
as the side bulge is usually much less than that of the top and there is
thus less chance of injuring the cantaloupes. Wagons used for con-
veying packed crates to car-loading platforms should be equipped with
springs to reduce injury from jarring.

The greatest care should be v exercised in stacking packed crates, in
stowing them in cars, and in loading them on and off wagons. It fre
quently happens, through accident or carelessness, that packed crates
are thrown or dropped into position. It is hardly necessary to call
attention to the serious injury and deterioration resulting from such
carelessness. This applies with equal force to the handling which
crates receive during unloading from cars and during distribution to
wholesale, jobbing, and retail stores.

CANTALOUPES SHOULD BE LOADED INTO ICED REFRIGERATOR CARS AS
SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER PICKING.

The reduction of serious market losses from oversoft, overripe, and
decayed cantaloupes is dependent to a large extent upon the prompt-
ness with which they are placed under refrigeration. The importance
ol prompt loading and cooling is generally recognized. The inspection
data of experimental shipments of Pollock cantaloupes from the Imper-
ial Valley to New York City during the seasons of 1916 and 1917
strongly emphasize this factor.

Table 3 gives the average results of inspections of 13 shipments of
comparative lots delayed one, four, and eight hours before loading
during the season 1917.



MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.



TABLE 3. Average percentages illustrating differences in firmness, color, and
decay of cantaloupes delayed for one, four, and eight hours before loading
into iced refrigerator cars for shipment, season 1917.



Time of inspection at 1
New York City )


Just after unloading from
refrigerator cars.


Two days later.




Viewpoint of inspector


Dealer.


Consumer.




Time between packing and J
loading into iced refrig- -s
erator car for shipment. 1


1
hour.


4
hours.


8
hours.


1
hour.


4
hours.


8
hours.


Cantaloupes :
Too SOFT to be desirable. .

Too YELLOW from stand-


Per cent.
8.4

8.4

.0


Per cent.
16.7

13.3

.0


' Per cent.
27.0

15.0
1.2


Per cent.
30.6

20.9
2.9


Per cent.
34.7

21.5
3.3


Per cent.

43.2

26.3
4.4


DECAYED enough to spoil
for food





After picking, cantaloupes should be hauled without delay from
the field to the packing shed, where they should be kept in the shade
until packed. They should be packed as soon as possible, and, while
being hauled from the packing shed to the car-loading platform, should
be covered with canvas or other light-colored cloth to protect them
from the sun. As soon as possible, after packing, cantaloupes should
be loaded into iced refrigerator cars for shipment. The importance
of this promptness is illustrated in figure 2.





FIG. 2. Immediate versus delayed loading of cantaloupes. Note the greater shrinkage in the
crate on the right as compared with the crate on the left. The crate on the right was .not
placed under refrigeration until 24 hours after the melons were picked, while the crate on the
left was loaded three hours after picking. This photograph was taken two days after they
were unloaded at destination.

CANTALOUPES SHOULD NOT BE WRAPPED.

Wrapped cantaloupes do not refrigerate as well in transit nor do
thev reach consumers in as good condition as do cantaloupes not
wrapped.

These conclusions are based on inspections of comparative ship-
ments of Pollock cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley, California,
to New York City during the seasons of 1916 and 1017. Table 4 and
figure 3 give the average results of 13 shipments.



MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.



9



TABLE 4. Average percentages illustrating differences in firmness:, color, decay,
and mold in 13 experimental shipments of wrapped and not wrapped
cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley, California, to New York City during
the season of 1917.





Just after
unloading from
refrigerator cars.


Two days later.






Dealer.


Consumer.






Wrapped.


Not
Wrapped.


Wrapped.


Not
Wrapped.




Cantaloupes :
Too SOFT to be desirable


Per cent.
17.7
8.7
.5
3.1


Per cent.
15.3

4.6
.0
.2


Per cent.

28.8
17.7
22.7
42.4


Per cent.
34.0
12.5
4.6

2.7


Too YELLOW from standpoint of ripeness







"Two Days after Unloading from Refrigerator Cars at New\brk.



Cantaloupes
too soft.



Per cent cantaloupes' too soft.

10 20 30 40

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1



50



Wrapped 28.8 percentl
Not Wrapped 34.0 percentl



Cantaloupes
overripe.



Bsr cent cantaloupes overripe.

O 10 20 3O 40 50

II I I I I I I I I I I I 1 1 I I I I I I I I I I I 1 1 1 1 I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 1 1 I 1 1



Wrapped, 17 7 percentl
Not Wrapped, las per cent|



Cantaloupes



50



Per cent cantaloupes badly decayed.
Cantaloupes n ip 20 30 ' 40 5C

badly decayed. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' '

Wrapped, 227 per cent.^HHHHIHHHH
NotWrapped, 4.6 per cent.HB



r t

mol

Wrapped, 42.4 per cent.



Per cent cantaloupes badly molded.

10 20 30 40 50

1 I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I



NotWrapped, 2. 7 percentl



FIG. 3. Diagram illustrating average differences in firmness, overripeness, decay, and mold in 13
experimental shipments of wrapped and not wrapped cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley,
California, to New York City during the season of 1917.



10



MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.



Free circulation of cold air around each crate and around each
melon is essential to quick, effective refrigeration in transit. Wrapped
cantaloupes cool more slowly than those not wrapped because the
paper retards the free circulation of cold air and acts to some extent
as an' insulator, preventing the free transmission of heat from the
melons.

Two days after cantaloupes involved in these studies were unloaded
from refrigerator cars at the markets, the wrapped melons were
slightly firmer than those not wrapped, owing to the fact that the
wraps retarded to some extent the evaporation of moisture. The dif
ference, however, is so slight that it does not compensate for the in-
crease in decay and mold which wrapping causes.

It is not advisable to wrap cantaloupes, even though it is not pos-
sible to load them immediately after packing. This is shown by a
comparison of the data in Tables 3 and 4. The figures show that two
days after unloading from refrigerator cars the loss resulting from
delay in loading is much less than the loss from wrapping. This loss
would naturally occur in any wrapped cantaloupes, whether they were
loaded for shipment immediately after packing or whether they were
lield in the open for a considerable time before loading, because the
loss from wrapping occurs after the cantaloupes are unloaded from
refrigerator cars at centers of consumption.

Most of the loss from wrapping occurs because of decay and mold
which develop after cantaloupes are unloaded from refrigerator cars
at centers of consumption. When, on summer days, crates of cold
cantaloupes are removed from refrigerator cars, moisture from the
atmosphere condenses on the surface of the melons. This moisture




FIG. 4. Wrapped versus not wrapped cantaloupes. Those on the left were wrapped, those on
the right were not wrapped. This photograph illustrates their condition two days after unload-
ing from a refrigerator car. Note the mold on those melons which were wrapped.



MORE CARE NEEDED IN HANDLING CANTALOUPES.



11



soon evaporates from cantaloupes not wrapped, but from wrapped
cantaloupes the evaporation is hindered by the paper, which tends
to retain the condensed moisture. This retained moisture acts as
a medium favorable to the growth of organisms which cause the de-
velopment of decay and mold, as illustrated in figure 4.

Aside from causing losses through decay and mold, the practice
of wrapping is undesirable because it enables unscrupulous persons to
cover and pack defective cantaloupes which, if not wrapped, would
be thrown out. Both in producing sections and at centers of con-
sumption, it is more difficult for inspectors and buyers to examine
wrapped crates than crates not wrapped.



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Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of AgricultureMore care is needed in handling Western cantaloupes → online text (page 1 of 1)