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Harvest

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Harvest labor costs for cider apples may potentially be reduced compared to costs for picking dessert fruit, because pickers would typically ‘strip-pick’ all fruit from the tree rather than be selective for fruit size and color requirements for fresh market apples. However, cider apples are often smaller than dessert fruit, which can increase harvest time and eliminate labor gains made by strip-picking. Cider apples are typically ripened as much as possible on the tree, which makes them prone to drop either during or prior to harvest. Some cider apple growers even wait until a substantial portion of the fruit is on the ground, then shake the remaining fruit from the trees and harvest from the orchard floor. While this method may be efficient and lend itself to optimum ripeness development, as well as potentially to mechanical harvest, food safety must be a primary consideration. Most food safety plans for sweet cider would preclude the intentional harvest of fruit from the ground, which can introduce numerous human pathogens to the fruit. While fermentation is an accepted method for reducing pathogen load in finished ciders, ground harvested fruit should be sorted for rots and debris and washed prior to pressing. If shared equipment will be used for juice intended for both sweet cider and fermented cider, fruit storage and equipment sanitation become especially critical and written procedures and compliance standards should be maintained to ensure that fresh cider does not become contaminated with pathogens.