This post is an excerpt from one of my masteral subject requirements. It deals with the existing postharvest practices of five major crops in our small barrio.
Patola are harvested when they are long and big but the wedges are still soft to touch. Harvesting is done any time of the day, rain or shine. The stalk is cleanly cut with a sharp bolo to prevent damage to vine. The preferred harvesting days are Fridays and Tuesdays to coincide with the next day market. This scheme causes some fruits to become over-mature and allow to grow as source of seeds.
If the commodity is not sold for 1 to 2 days, a small portion of the stalk is cut off to make it look fresh again.
For farms more than one kilometer from the road, hauling is done by horse. Patola are carefully arranged in two big metal baskets. These often result to breakage in which the severity depends on horse behavior and skill of horse handler.
Patola is a delicate commodity, easily broken when dropped or bent. To prevent damage, a group of 35 are wrapped together in banana bracts. It serves as a good protection but not good enough to resist fall or rough handling of transporters. Non straights are packed separately and command a lower price.
Ampalaya (Bitter Gourd)
There are no exact criteria for maturity indices of bitter gourd. The following are the rough basis. It should not be too big or too small depending on varieties. The wrinkle spaces should not be too wide and should not have any cracks.
They are packed in large polyethylene bags with a capacity of five to ten kilograms. Non straights and too small are packed separately and commands a lower price. Bag is closed only during transport to prevent accumulation and condensation of moisture.
Patani (Lima Beans)
Harvested when he beans are plumbed with the tip still soft to touch. Those with skin damages are harvested but separated and checked if the beans inside are still fit for consumption. Four bean-pods are separated as it commands higher price. Two-bean pods and three-bean pods are sold for lower price. One-bean pods, over matured and those with skin damages are not sold. They are destined for home consumption.
Harvested in its green ripe stage or the “manibalang” in Tagalog. Fruits with 10% or more yellow skin are left behind. They are likely to break and rot during transport, handling and storage. Harvesting time is done about past 9:00 am. Harvesting too early in the morning results in skin browning. The reason behind it is scientifically explained but very few farmers know it.
The harvested santunis are packed in sacks. Horses are used to transport it from farm to nearest road. Two sacks are secured on horse side using ropes and one on horseback, for a total of three sacks per transport. This mode of transport causes an obvious damage to some fruits.
The fruit is harvested when it is yellow with slight traces of green color. The full ripeness of orange color has the best taste but the latter is preferable. It is still hard enough to resist transport vibrations and has longer shelf life for transport, storage and marketing.
Harvesting is done by climbing the tree and getting the fruits one by one with the use a small basket attached to a long bamboo pole. The harvester has a large bamboo basket (kaing) nearby as partial fruit container, attached to a long rope to facilitate the careful down transport.
Dropping fruits from tree during harvesting are still whole, looks good for market but are not included for packing and selling. Some of the dropped fruits are overripe and almost all will have internal browning after few days.
The fruits are packed and transported in the same manner as santunis. However, santol leaves are placed in sack bottom and top to serve as cushion.
Santol has relatively thick rind. It can be placed under the heat of sun for prolonged period without visible evidence of wilt. The practice of leaving it under the heat of sun is common.
Mode of Transport
One mode of transportation was already mentioned above, horses which are trained to carry goods. They are very common as many farms are far from road side and inaccessible to four-wheeled vehicles. Even if the farms are accessible, horses are still preferred during the rainy seasons. These horses can cause some damage to commodities depending on their behavior. It can ruin the whole batch if gone wild and the owner is unable to control.
The cheapest way to transport good is by human means. Goods are packed in bayong or bamboo baskets and carry on shoulder or head. Carrying is usually done in a way most comfortable to carrier without taking consideration the effect on the commodity. Damage is likely.
Small time vehicular transport to market is fine but much harvest is jeopardized if done by the wholesale buyers. Mixed commodities are arranged in such a way the vehicle can carry the maximum commodity weight and not the way which is more conducive to harvest. Handlers (kargadors) are stepping on the goods during loading, transport and unloading.
Time of transport is usually done very early in the morning. Colder temperature is favorable but it is not the real reason for early transport. Buyers and sellers meet very early to avoid heavy traffic.