Yes, Washington is indeed a significant player in the apple industry, known for establishing rigorous standards for apple grading. The state’s commitment to quality control is evident through its grading system, which includes factors like color, shape, sugar level, crispness, and overall condition. The establishment of national grade standards by the US Department of Agriculture in 1923 further solidified these criteria.
Washington’s apple growers take pride in exceeding even the strict regulations set by the US. The emphasis on a higher standard of “good shade of red” for red apple varieties and the allowance for fewer surface blemishes on green and yellow varieties reflect their commitment to delivering top-quality apples to consumers.
The apple sizing system, designated by count, ensures that consumers receive apples of consistent size and quality. Washington apples are renowned for their ideal size, with crops traditionally peaking on sizes 88 – 100, offering apples that are around 3 inches in diameter and between 6 – 8 ounces.
The process of ensuring high-quality apples from harvest to consumer involves advanced technology. After careful picking in the orchard, apples are washed and undergo thorough inspection using computer-controlled cameras and scales. These systems separate apples based on color, shape, and size. Additionally, internal quality checks, starch and sugar content measurements, and specialized storage methods are employed to maintain the apples’ crispness, flavor, and overall quality.
The use of controlled atmosphere (CA) storage rooms, where oxygen is replaced by nitrogen, helps slow the apples’ respiration rate, preserving their freshness. This meticulous process ensures that consumers receive apples with a “just-picked” taste, whether they are purchased from local grocery stores, fruit markets, or restaurants around the world.
Overall, Washington’s commitment to high standards and the careful management of the apple production process contribute to the reputation of Washington apples as some of the best in the industry.