Canning season is almost upon us. I can feel the throws of fruit picking mania just over the horizon. Last year was our first real initiation into the U-Pick market. We learned a few things.
While waiting in line for our peaches to be weighed, we ogled the fruit crates of an older man in front of us. He had his red wagon train stacked with peaches, all nicely nestled and perfectly balanced. Nothing was bruising as he bumped along the gravel road. There was serious skill here. This man had canning season down to an art. We proceeded to ogle and awe further vowing to take on his Jedi-like fruit season knowledge.
Our one hundred pounds of peaches started to soften and bruise the instant we brought them through the door last year. A frenzied, sticky day was spent peeling, slicing, and canning. Jules had to finish up all by himself (gulp!) due to me needing to go to work that evening. We figured we had at least two days to split the canning up into. We were totally wrong.
When a stack of pallets was up for grabs on a street corner, we grabbed them. Later, we saw an older fruit crate at an estate sale and grabbed it, too. Together, these would become our coveted fruit crates.
The construction of a fruit crate is remarkably simple. The important parts are 1) to leave air spaces between the slats so the fruit can have air circulate all around it preventing spoilage, 2) no sharp edges inside so that the fruit could become bruised or ripped open, and 3) stackable but not resting on the fruit. These fruit crates provide all that and cost about 50 cents a piece using salvaged wood. 'Trol around on Craigslist or Freecycle a bit and see if you can find any pallets up for grabs. They can easily be sliced apart to form light weight, uniform boards. If the size of your deconstructed pallets isn't exactly the same, just go with it.
A box of 4D nails
Miter saw (though any kind of saw would work)
2 - 52 inch lattice trim boards (a whopping 26 cents a piece at Home Depot)
To begin with, cut your pallet boards to the correct sizes. You will need:
2 - 6 inch x 17 inch (bottom)
Miter the corners of these boards at a 45 degree angle 3/4 of an inch in from the corners. The mitered edges allow the crates to stack without bruising the fruit.
From each lattice board cut:
1 - 14 inch bottom support board
Now that all the pieces are cut, you just have to stack them up and have a lovely assistant (that's always my job) hold them in place while you nail things together. As much as the assistant isn't completely necessary, they make things a ton faster (and it gives me a job when Jules' works).
Have your lovely assistant hold the front and back boards while you nail the bottom boards on one at a time. There should be a 2 inch gap down the center of the crate to allow airflow.
Cover the nails holding the bottom boards with the bottom support board, by carefully nailing it on top. This board provides added structure to the crate for fruits picked hard and therefore extremely heavy (like pears). This piece also allows for additional airflow when the crates are all stacked together.
Turning the crate up on one side, carefully nail in each lattice board leaving a gap down the center for airflow. Flip the crate over and do the same thing on the other side.
Now you just have to make a whole bunch and head on out to the orchard.