“Understanding crop maturity and the accuracy of this measurement is key to staying ahead of crop and knowing when to make the move from value to premium product. The TU units give us the accuracy to work to much tighter tolerances, which in turn can affect final product grading and profitability. The units are well designed, very low maintenance and are backed up with a strong support service.”
Thoughts from Colven Wilson, Technical Manager at Eyemouth Freezers Ltd.
Pea season has officially commenced this year and all the pea fields are being emptied. They are going to new homes in Birdseye bags, Cup-a-Soups and grandmas’ freezers all over the country. But how do they get there? How do we decide which peas are best – peafect colour, shape, taste – and which ones should be mushy peas…?
Enter… The Tenderometer: Pea Maturity Measurement System!
This innovative and industry-defining piece of equipment is built for continual use during harvest season and grades the tenderness of your lush green pearls. Since using the Tenderometer, Colven Wilson of Eyemouth Freezers Ltd has “Seen a huge improvement not only in grading but when to actually shift fields and begin vining,” evidencing the many benefits that the Tenderometer guarantees.
Stage One: Growing
As the crop nears maturity, tenderness tests are carried out on daily samples of peas from multiple locations in the field. This informs farmers how well the peas are doing, their maturity and even the best place in the field for growing, ensuring they are at their ripest when they reach our forks. Best practice is to take three tenderness readings from one sample and find an average.
Compared to his old tenderometer systems, Colven “Feels much more confident in the average tenderometer reading as the three readings are in a tighter range,” meaning the average will be significantly more precise.
Colven also added, “If the highest and lowest readings have more than a five-point difference, you take 4th and 5th readings, score out the highest and lowest and take the average from the remaining three. We hardly had to do this with the new units, whereas we would do it much more frequently with the old ones,” Which reflects the incredible accuracy of this masterpeace of an instrument, as opposed to other conventional tenderness measurement equipment. This precision is crucial when you are depending on your instrument to trigger your decision to reap the fields.
When the peas are within tolerance (industry term for perfect tenderness) the farmers are deployed. Tractor engines roar. The great pea harvest begins.
Stage Two: Processing
The pea industry is not one for slackers. During harvest, they must be vined, transported, graded and frozen all within just 150 minutes, so that they keep their fresh, take-you-back-to-childhood flavour. Upon arriving at the warehouse, the peas are graded into various quality brackets: Premium; Garden; Catering and so on.
“Some of these grades are within quite a tight band,” observes Colven, “So the lower tolerance [of the Tenderometer] in regard to accuracy, ensures you fall into the correct grade band.” These brackets correlate with price and value, therefore ensuring that the peas have the correct grade is extremely important. Colven comments: “The digital TU Tenderometers will have paid for themselves by holding more product in the Garden bracket, rather than dropping into Catering due to unit accuracy.”
After being graded and separated into their brackets, the peas must be frozen and kept at a temperature of around -17°C.
Stage Three: Retailing
While the deep-frozen peas are kept in storage, they are periodically defrosted in order to take tenderness tests for quality control. Designed to indicate tenderness in tenderometer units, the measurements given by the TU Tenderometer correlate directly to pea maturity grades.
Peas of the same grade are kept together in batches; at Eyemouth Freezers Ltd, Colven and his team “Do roughly twelve-hundred batches a season.” He reviewed the readings from his old tenderometer system and after some calculations, said “You could be looking at a loss of £1600 [per batch] when a unit of greater accuracy,” such as the TU Tenderometer, “Would have allowed you to remain in the Garden bracket, even after temperature adjustment.” This is a massive saving for Eyemouth Freezers Ltd – nearly £2million – who saw the numerous perks of owning the Tenderometer.
On demand, the batches of peas are packed, branded and shipped to retailers up and down the country all year round, right up until next year’s harvest is ripe and ready to go.
Not only does the Tenderometer employ extraordinarily sophisticated technology for outstanding precision, it is completely effortless to use. Simply load the peas, shut the door, press start, record the reading, unload and repeat!
Anybody, in the pea industry or not, can see how vital the Tenderometer is in getting the best possible value for your crop and getting the best possible peas into your grandma’s freezer. It has never been easier to watch the quality peas roll out while the fruits of your labour roll back in. Why not take control of your pea tenderness with the Tenderometer?