The Principles and Practice of Sun Drying Fruit

Oct 13, 2012 by

A reproduction of the booklet THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF SUN DRYING FRUIT from UC Berkeley Agricultural Experiment Station from the early 1920’s.  This is a very scholarly look at sun drying fruit, but please note – they explain how to use sulfurous acid as the drying agent, as this book was written in the early 1920’s.

A few words from the text:

“Fruit intended for drying should be thoroughly matured. With the exception of pears, no fruit should be picked for drying until it has developed its full ripe color and flavor and has reached its maxi- mum sugar content. When in prime condition for eating, fruit is also in prime condition for drying but not before. The hard partially green fruit required for commercial canning or fresh shipment is entirely unsuitable for drying. Such fruit, when dried, yields a product of low grade, lacking in color and flavor, excessively shrivelled and curled up and, because of its deficiency in sugar, always gives a lower yield of dried product. The effect of maturity on the drying ratio of peaches and apricots is illustrated in Table 4. In each case the fruit was picked at one time from a small group of trees at the University Farm, graded for maturity and all lots reduced to the same degree of dryness.

Apricots and peaches should be picked from the tree when they have a uniform ripe yellow color, when they have begun to soften but are still reasonably firm and when they can be easily cut with a sharp knife and yet retain their shape. In order to obtain only well-ripened fruit it is necessary to pick over the orchard from two to four times in a season. The number of pickers required per acre of orchard averages one to four for peaches and one to two for apricots. The average adult will pick one thousand pounds of apricots or two thousand pounds of peaches a day. If knocked to the ground for gathering, these figures will be considerably increased but the fruit will be bruised and uneven in ripeness. The average cost of hand picking is three dollars and fifty cents per ton of peaches and seven dollars per ton of apricots.

Figs drop naturally to the ground when mature. The ground should be smoothed, to keep the figs cleaner and easier to gather. The trees may be lightly shaken but the fruit should never be knocked off with poles. The fallen figs should be gathered frequently as exposure causes them to become sunburned, dirty and infested with insects. In practice, however, it is rarely possible to cover the orchard more than once or twice a week. A simple and economical method is used with Mission figs in the Winters district. The fallen figs are picked directly into sacks, which, when one-third to one-half full, are tied and flattened out on the ground under the tree half way out from the trunk. The sacks are turned every two or three days until the figs are uniformly dried when several sacks are condensed for hauling to storage bins. Very uniform drying results in dry weather but the figs are apt to become excessively dirty and accumulate lint from the sack.

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