What happens between harvest and arrival at the grocery store?
Buying at the grocery store
Oranges, lemons and limes are some of the most consistently available citrus crops at grocery stores. Depending on the type of citrus you are purchasing and its origin region, the typical storage time (the time between harvest and sale to the end consumer) can be up to 24 weeks.
Why so much time?
Citrus is sourced globally to maintain a year round supply, but the seasons in each growing climate do not piece together a perfect, seamless calendar. One of the reasons for lengthy storage is to ensure supply during gaps of production. Another reason is the mode of transportation itself.
Fruit is shipped in large volume via cargo ships-not airplanes. The transit timelines for ocean transportation can be weeks, often with stops along the way. Ocean cargo transportation is necessary not only to move volume too large for aircraft, but also because it is far more cost effective than air travel. This keeps prices lower for the intermediary buyers along the way, as well as the end consumer.
Buying direct from the farm
When you purchase directly from the farm, either at a farmers market, via your local CSA or with FruitStand, the amount of time citrus spends in storage is typically less than a week. Fruit is rarely waxed or treated with preservatives since the point of such treatments is to enable to fruit to withstand much longer storage and transit timelines than needed for direct to consumer sales.