Can I Ship Fruit or Vegetables Through the Mail?

One of my sons lives in the northern part of our state, and when harvest time comes around, we ship him a nice assortment of fresh vegetables and fruit from our garden. While shipping produce within my state is perfectly legal, shipping that same produce to my cousins in Washington state is not legal. Washington state, like many other states scattered across the United States has laws regulating the import of fruits and vegetables to prevent the possible spread of blight, disease, or bug infestations to their own crops.

Before mailing fresh vegetables, fruit, or herbs to friends and relatives, you must do a little homework first. One resource to check is your local county extension office. The extension officers will be able to tell you if your garden produce can be shipped out of state. A link to the USDA national database of county extension offices can be found here.

If your county extension agent doesn’t have the list of prohibited produce for specific states (and some might not), they should refer you to the State Department of Agriculture located in the state where the produce is being shipped. The Department of Agriculture will tell you what can be shipped and what is prohibited by law. By not checking with one of these agencies before placing that parcel in the mail, you run the risk of your package being seized or worse yet ~ being single handedly responsible for wiping out a state’s entire apple or onion crop.

How to pack produce for shipping

If you’ve been given the OK from the State Department of Agriculture to ship your produce, there’s a few tips you should know before tossing those vegetables in the box.

Tip #1 Select fruits and vegetables that have a firm skin, and are free of nicks, mushy spots, or bug bites. Avoid sending fruit that is overly ripe as it may burst apart in the box. If shipping tomatoes, it’s best to send them slightly underripe.

Tip #2 Wrap the fruit and vegetables individually in layers of tissue paper, and provide plenty of padding in the box itself. Extra padding prevents the produce from shifting around in the box, and provides protection in case the box gets dropped en route.

Tip #3 Ship produce overnight or by priority mail so that the recipient will receive it within a few days instead of a few weeks. Always mail on a Monday or Tuesday so that your produce won’t be left sitting in a warehouse over a weekend.

Tip #4 If possible, ship when the temperatures are cooler instead of mailing produce in the heat of summer. The cooler temperatures will prolong the quality of your freshly harvested produce, resulting in an edible gift that’s at the peak of freshness.

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