Peeling bulbs is not always a pleasure for your hands and fingers, but it is very important for the bulb! Baby bulbs and other pieces of sand and dirt need to be removed to get the flowerbulb ready for export. This work is almost always done by Polish workers or local youth, and therefore it is one of the most fun summer jobs around.
Usually, everyone sits around a conveyor belt, as the flowerbulbs come by. At the end of the belt, someone makes sure all the bulbs end up in a box, bag or crate. This is a fun, socialble job all summer long, especially when everyone gets together in the canteen on Fridays to have a beer and celebrate the end of the week together. But, of course there is a lot of hard work during the week to make sure all the flowerbulbs can be sent to you in time.
Why do the flowerbulbs have to be peeled?
Attachted to a flowerbulb are plant remains and baby bulbs. The baby bulbs need to be removed from the ‘mother bulb’, because they are still too small to sell. They will be planted again to grow. The old plant remains need to be removed as well, because they are not clean and therefore are therefore not allowed to be exported. Sick bulbs also need to be sorted out, because of course they can’t be exported or used either.
How does bulb cleaning work?
After the bulbs are dug up, they are cleaned. Nowadays a lot of that is machine work: first, the small bulbs are separated from the large. The small bulbs are too little to sell and are planted for another year so they can grow. When the bulbs are separated, they go in to a machine that removes loose pieces of the bulb’s skin and roots. When the bulbs leave the cleaning machine, they go back into the sorting machine, where small bulbs and large bulbs are separated again. Then, they roll onto a conveyor belt, at which the last few bulbs are cleaned by hand. After that, the bulbs are sorted by size and left to dry. When the bulbs are completely dry, they go over the conveyor belt for one last check, after which they go into the counting machine. The counting machine puts the right amount of bulbs in each box, so they are ready to be sent off.
Who, when and where?
Cleaning or peeling bulbs happens mostly in Noord-Holland, the north-east province of the Netherlands. This area is known for her widespread bulb fields. Cleaning bulbs is a summer job: the flowers are sold and dug up at the beginning of the summer season, either by machine or by hand, and at the end of the season, they are sent off to their buyers. In the time inbetween, lots of students come to work for local growers to clean and sort flowerbulbs. This is often sociable, nice work, which can help you earn quite a bit of money during summer time!