Crunchiness and quality of long duration
About anti-aging in storage and sleeping beauties
The harvest period is the producers’ highlight after a work-intensive year. After the apple harvest their work is done for the moment. The harvest is a kind of cord clamping of the fresh fruit from the nourishing tree. Despite this separation the ripening process of the fruit continues: apples breathe, produce heat, carbon dioxide, water vapor and release aromatic compounds. They go through the natural aging process that you can’t stop, just delay. It’s possible to slow down the metabolism of fresh apples under certain storage conditions to preserve their crunchiness.
This is what Alexander Klotz and Alexander Schuster, the two „beauty experts“ of the MIVOR cooperative in Laces, are responsible for. „Our responsibility consists in keeping the freshly harvested apples crunchy and tasty. Their peel has to stay fresh and firm – just like in a beauty farm“, explains Alexander Klotz who has most experience as far as anti-aging is concerned. „Our apples also have to stay compact inside, in no case mealy,“ adds Alexander Schuster who’s a bit younger but has the same enthusiasm for unwrinkled fruits. Both of them display great motivation. In the end, they watch over some of the most important characteristics of apples from Val Venosta: their natural crunchiness and inner quality. At the MIVOR cooperative, Alexander and Alexander are responsible for a complex realm of highly modern so-called „CA cells“. “Controlled atmosphere“ is a technical achievement that has been used in modern fruit cultivation for decades. At the MIVOR cooperative in Laces, this kind of storage technique comprises an enormous realm of storage cells: 176 altogether. Every cell offers room for app. 450,000 kg of apples that are stored in the typical green large cases. The whole area of storage cells covers 3,8 hectares. „Every cell contains apples from different producers but usually of the same variety. There are only few cells with different varieties and only if the storage conditions are the same for both varieties,“ says Alexander Klotz.
„We fill every cell to the brim with freshly harvested apples and then we close it. After that technology takes over, which also ensures that the precious vitamins are preserved,“ says Alexander Schuster proudly. Alexander Klotz explains how to handle the job smoothly. „Basically, the following four parameters are decisive: a reduced temperature with temperatures just above zero (0.5-2°C depending on the variety), very high humidity over 90%, a low oxygen level (1-3% instead of 21% in normal air) and a high carbon dioxide level (around 3% instead of 0.04% in normal air).“
Alexander and Alexander are responsible for monitoring and adherence to these four parameters. „We know about the huge responsibility that rests with us and we also know how to cope with it. Despite different warning systems with sensors and other measuring devices we check every cell twice a day. On the monitor or directly on site at the cells that are on the ground floor,“ explains Alexander Klotz. When apples breathe, they produce heat and consume oxygen. You have to remove respiration heat and add new dosed oxygen at the right moment. The essential thing is to have perfect values all the time. „If oxygen sank to 0%, musty fermentation aromas would form. An incorrect carbon dioxide value would also cause major damage to the fruits. And only a high humidity level protects the sleeping fruits from dehydration.“
Alexander Schuster knows best about the ideal refrigeration temperature. „It is equally important. Unfortunately, it also has a huge impact on the electricity bill. Every year, we need lots of kilowatts of energy to refrigerate the cells and store the sleeping beauties. Fortunately, the photovoltaic system on the cooperative’s roof helps a lot, as it tirelessly produces precious green energy in our valley characterized by little precipitation.” Alexander and Alexander like their position of responsibility as guardians of the sleeping beauties. The more an apple breathes, the faster it ages. „Thanks to our technique we can guarantee that the apples only breathe slowly. And when we need them, then we wake them up – just like the prince wakes up the sleeping beauty,“ says Alexander Schuster and both laugh. A wonderful thought. It refers to the market, of course. The two princes get the order to open one or more cells in accordance with the clients’ demands. This takes place very slowly. Before you open the whole cell door, there is just an open peephole for one day. The air conditions in the cell are thus equilibrated with those outside. The next day, you can open the whole cell. „Only now are the sleeping beauties fully conscious, free and waiting for the channels of the sorting plant.“ There the apples are sorted according to dimension and peel condition before they come to the waiting room of the packaging area. The two Alexanders are also responsible for this “relax room” after the sorting plant. They call it high-bay warehouse. Apples are cooled there and wait to be put into the requested packaging with the two ladybirds – a red one and a yellow one. Because people should know that these are beauties from Val Venosta.
By opening the cell with the requested variety only after placement of the order to meet the specific demands of the client, lovers of crunchy Val Venosta apples can buy them all around the year. „Thanks to our anti-aging storage technique an apple that leaves the cell in May is as good as a freshly harvested apple in September,“ says Alexander Klotz. The work of the two Alexanders is teamwork. „We normally open our last cell with apples from the previous harvest in late summer, almost 12 months after the harvest. And soon after we get new, fresh apples that have to become sleeping beauties. A nice job but awaking the sleeping beauties is even nicer!“ Prince Alexander I and Prince Alexander II completely agree on that. A great team!