Shipping mushrooms from Pennsylvania can be a challenge. With their fragile structure and short shelf life, many of them can’t make even a short trip across state lines if they haven’t been shipped exactly right. The most common way that a shipment of mushrooms can be ruined is with premature spoilage, but mushrooms are also likely to get crushed, bruised, torn, and dried out. However, there are ways you can prepare and package mushrooms to reduce the risk of damage.
Shipping mushrooms from Pennsylvania requires careful packaging and processing to ensure the mushrooms don’t deteriorate in transit. They need to be kept at 0-1 degrees celsius at all times, and they cannot be kept near any ethylene-producing fruits or vegetables. In addition to that, handling them unnecessarily could result in excessive bruising and damage.
Pennsylvania didn’t get the title of “mushroom capital of the world” for nothing. Although there are only 68 mushrooms farms in Pennsylvania, the state is responsible for supplying two-thirds of the United States’ mushrooms. Even more impressively, every single one of those farms is family-owned, and many have been passed on down the family for generations. Many mushroom farmers continue to operate farms that were originally established by their great-grandparents!
According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, Pennsylvania has roughly 17 million square feet dedicated to mushroom farmland. Those farms employ over 9,500 workers and produce huge quantities of mushrooms each year. In 2017 alone, mushroom farmers in Pennsylvania produced 577.6 million pounds of mushrooms, and generated roughly $560 million in revenue. With such an impressive record, it’s no surprise that Pennsylvania remains the leader in mushroom production by a large margin. However, shipping mushrooms from Pennsylvania has its own set of challenges that make it a difficult commodity to move.
Shipping fresh mushrooms is a race to get them to retailers as fast as possible, so they can still have time to be purchased and consumed before they begin to deteriorate. Mushrooms have a notoriously short shelf life, and except for simply freezing them, there are no treatments that can extend their shelf life. Mushrooms are only good raw for a little over a week, so the logistics process needs to be significantly speedy to keep up.
In addition to that, mushrooms are fragile and have a high likelihood of experiencing bruising and other kinds of damage. Even handling them at all after harvesting can reduce their quality and leave soft spots on the caps. They also require very particular storage conditions to precisely control moisture and temperature, otherwise, the mushrooms could rot or harbor harmful bacteria.
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Mushrooms need to be packaged in a very particular way to minimize moisture loss and damage. It is typical for mushrooms going to grocery stores to be packaged in small styrofoam trays with a polyethylene wrap, on which a sticker is placed to display the logo and other important information. This is a common option, regardless of whether the mushrooms are left whole or sliced. Mushrooms should never be packaged in an airtight plastic container since that will cause them to spoil quickly.
When shipping a large quantity of mushrooms across the U.S., however, you need to be extremely careful about stacking the mushrooms, since even the weight of other mushrooms can squish them. When shipping out a bulk shipment of mushrooms, they should be packed in sturdy plastic cartons with trays to separate different layers of mushrooms. Each layer should be filled completely, but not tightly packed, to minimize shifting during transportation. These plastic crates can then be stacked on top of each other, since the crates are designed to keep the weight off the vegetables themselves.
There are a few other considerations you will need to keep in mind when shipping fresh mushrooms long distances. Just making small changes in how they are stored can significantly increase shelf life, and result in higher-quality produce getting to your customers.
The first thing you need to think about is temperature. Mushrooms will spoil quickly in warm environments, so they should always be kept refrigerated at 0-1 degrees Celsius, or 32-33.8 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is kept at even 1 degree warmer than the recommended temperature range, then the mushrooms will likely not survive the trip. Sometimes, insulated containers can be effective, but in almost all cases you will want to use a temperature-controlled truck.
Another important thing to consider is whether or not you will be shipping other types of produce with the mushrooms. Most fruits and vegetables produce ethylene, which will cause the mushrooms to become discolored. Make sure to keep your mushrooms away from any ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables in both storage and transportation if you want to ensure the highest quality.
Mushrooms aren't the only produce that requires special considerations for shipping; apples do, too. Learn more about shipping apples from New York farms.
The best way to keep mushrooms for long periods of time is to can them. Canning the mushrooms not only preserves them for an extended period of time, it also makes them much easier to ship since the sturdy metal cans can easily be palletized and loaded on a freight truck.
Other options for processing mushrooms to increase shelf life are:
Preserving mushrooms in some way not only extends their shelf life, but it also protects them from other types of damage that could impact their quality.
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