How can grocery stores get ripe fruits of all types every single week of the year?


I understand that fruit can get sent by air all the way from Chile to the United States when it is winter in the U.S. But even within the Northern or Southern hemisphere, it seems that harvest season is going to vary by latitude. So, the regions in which cherries, or apples, or tomatoes, etc. are ready for picking will continuously vary every week. How can grocery store suppliers constantly vary where they source their ripe fruit every single week of the year? How can they have relationships with so many farmers in so many regions and even countries? Is there a website farmers can use to tell suppliers all over the world when their fruits are ripe?

In: 30

Many fruits are picked and shipped unripe then exposed to ethylene gas which makes them ripen when desired.

Because its not true ripening the fruit doesn’t develop the sugars and other compounds of the natural ripening process so many things are much less tasty than home grown.

About apples specifically, they’re harvested when they’re in season, before they’re actually ripe, then kept in cold storage for most of the year and released in batches. The low-oxygen, cold warehouse keeps them from ripening until they’re ready to be sold.

Some product can be stored for a long time by adjusting the temperature, moisture, various gases in the air mixture… the average grocery store apple was picked 15 months ago. Even if some items can’t be stored that long, there are ways to prolong how long it can go from field to store shelf.

Other items can be grown in different places depending on time of year… blueberries might be grown in California during the fall and winter, Alabama and Georgia in early spring, Tennessee in late spring, Michigan and Pennsylvania in summer.

Then there are greenhouse, hydroponics, etc. that can be grown year round.

So copying part of an answer from before about shipping ripe fruits since it’s relevant here.

Actually have some legitimate knowledge on this one.

Odds are the fruit in your fridge has already been around for several days, weeks, or even months before a consumer gets to it. Between the fields, sorting, packing houses, distribution, and then onto store shelves it’s been around a bit. Even more so if it isn’t local.

Things are picked during certain ripeness windows, forced ripening, refrigeration, air freight in some cases, specific varieties, chemistry witchcraft, and quality as well.

In some cases it’s possible to pick fruits before they are ripe, then store them in certain conditions where they will not be exposed to the ripening chemicals until desired. Humidity, temperature, gas mixture is all controlled for. Ethylene gas is one of them, if you’ve ever been told not to store other fruit near bananas it’s because they give off a lot of it as they ripen which can force nearby fruits to prematurely spoil.. on the flip side the gas can be introduced closer to delivery to “finish” fruits.
This isn’t as high quality as tree ripened fruit(for citrus anyway) since it’s more for color than flavor or juice, but will get the color right and keep the rind intact longer. Though once gassed, the decay process speeds up rapidly. This is also how supply for fruits are smoothed out over peaks and falls from different varieties having slightly different pick times. Not every fruit works with this method, but a lot of them do, even if it is just for color. Some fruits like bananas, or stone fruit do actually ripen and change flavor from the ripening. IIRC the term is climacteric vs non-climactic.
Bananas are a great example of this. Picked green, straight into refer containers ASAP, then onto ships and gassed at receiving centers. Depending the cycle, location etc, the banana that will implode on a consumers counter in 2-3 days, is already two weeks old.

Containers can be refrigerated which helps.

If the commodity is expensive enough, it’s possible to air shot it to destination. Berries are a common air freight commodity since they spoil fast but also can command a high price. Ever try to buy berries in NA during the winter and realize you’re paying like $8 for a small clamshell grown in South America? Berries for people in the business are also a very high stress commodity since they perish extremely fast, are potentially a lot of profit and have tighter margins for freight times. I’ve heard anecdotes about brokers renting U-Hauls and driving the shipment themselves to make sure their shipments were on the plane.

Some varieties have thicker skin and lend themselves to better export markets.

In the case of apples, it’s entirely possible with ~~witchcraft~~ chemistry to fully stop the decay and store them for months. Upon removal from the gas chambers the fruit begins to decay and ripen again though.

Export fruit is also generally higher quality, both to survive the trips but also to make up for the higher cost to consumer. Some of the best fruit I’ve ever had is export grade straight from the fields.

tl;dr- Commercial agriculture is a full science with massive chambers that control gas mixtures, temperature and humidity to control the decay. The average fridge, does not have that. Odds are also that the fruit has already been around for a while before ending up in a consumer fridge.


The above answer was for “why does fruit not last for consumers but can be shipped weeks on ships.”

There are also different varieties. Take citrus. Some crops come out earlier and will be locked into sales with brokers and companies long before. Months or years before it’s known “this XXX acres will come out in the first couple weeks of November, it can be pushed +- a little bit with the previously mentioned gas techniques. Then it’s known XXX more acres will be ready. Same story. Some varieties are better for early timing but might sacrifice quality.

This is also very international. So it’s not just Chilean, but Mexican, and other South and Central American countries that may have slightly different growing seasons.

Farmers are not just looking for buyers after the fruit is off the trees, at least for the crops I’m familiar with.
They generally have packing houses, and brokers long before.

Also most fruit isn’t air shipped. Except for berries, green beans and a couple other random ones, most is containerized on ships.

TL;DR- the creative time tables with chemistry and biology that can make ripe fruit on demand and delay decay, international scale with different climates, and very advanced planning.

Some things can be grown year-round as well, if you keep the right environment. Like tomatoes in greenhouse, etc. In addition, a lot of the USA’s produce comes from South America, which has the opposite seasons in the southern temperate band.