National Apple Museum
Biglerville, PA 17307
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Early History
of the
Apple Industry
in Adams County

 A is for apple


Plants absorb light energy in a wonderful process called photosynthesis and use this light energy to turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. Plants are not the only ones who use light energy to cause a chemical reaction people also absorb the UV portion of light to produce additional melanin; that is why we get a suntan. During the photosynthesis process, plants require a lot of water, and then break down the water molecule H20 into oxygen and hydrogen ions. The resulting oxygen is what we breathe. During the process called respiration, the plant uses these carbohydrates and other substances to produce biochemical reactions necessary for plant growth. During this process, the plant releases carbon dioxide and water. It is this respiration process that must be deterred after the apple is picked in order to ensure its freshness while it is waiting to be shipped to the market.

 dental health week After apples are picked, they last only a short while, and when you buy them from the store, they only last a week in the fruit bowl. Because of this, in the early days apples had to be shipped soon after packing to keep them in good condition for the consumer. Apples were sometimes piled and covered with dirt for winter storage. In the first decade of the 1900s, apples were stored in potato cellars. But neither of these methods guaranteed freshness. In the 1920s cold storage was introduced, giving the growers more flexibility in marketing. Yet some apples continued to spoil before they found a market.

In the 1950s, Wenatchee native Archie Van Doren introduced Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage to the Washington apple industry. The Apple Industry had found out that by storing the apples in a reduced oxygen atmosphere, that respiration slows down. They do this by storing them in special controlled atmosphere storage areas where they increase the level of nitrogen. Ripening apples give off carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers figured out that increasing the amount  Stubbs of carbon dioxide around the fruit, it produces a back pressure and reduces the rate of respiration. CA storage is a non-chemical process in which temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and humidity levels are carefully controlled. Temperature is kept between 32 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity is held at 95%, and oxygen is replaced with nitrogen and carbon dioxide. By changing the atmosphere around the apples, the ripening process is slowed, and apples can be stored up to a year with little or no loss of quality.

The first commercial quantity of Red Delicious was stored in a mylar tent in a Yakima area warehouse. Now Washington has the largest capacity of CA storage of any growing region in the world. Today in Eastern Washington 66% of all storage is Controlled Atmosphere storage.

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The Biglerville Historical and Preservation Society
and The National Apple Museum
154 West Hanover Street - P.O. Box 656
Biglerville, PA 17307-9442 - Telephone: 717-677-4556

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