Chapter 5 General procedures for fruit and vegetable preservation

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5.1 Fresh storage

Fresh fruit and vegetable storage

Once fruit is harvested, any natural resistance to the action of spoiling micro-organisms is lost. Changes in enzymatic systems of the fruit also occur on harvest which may also accelerate the activity of spoilage organisms.

Means that are commonly used to prevent spoilage of fruits must include:

A principal economic loss occurring during transportation and/or storage of produce such as fresh fruit is the degradation which occurs between the field and the ultimate destination due to the effect of respiration. Methods to reduce such degradation are as follows:

The following is a summary of some recent developments in post-harvest technology of fresh fruits and vegetables (Source: Thompson, 1989).

Harvest maturity. This is particularly important with fruit for export. One recent innovation is the measurement of resonant frequency of the fruit which should enable the grading out of over mature and under-mature fruit before they are packed for export.

Harvest method. Considerable research is continuing on mechanical harvesting of perishable crops with a view to minimising damage. In fruit trees, controlling their height by use of dwarfing rootstocks, pruning and growth regulating chemicals will lead to easier, cheaper more accurate harvesting.

Handling systems. Field packing of various vegetables for export has been carried out for many years. In the last decade or so this has been applied, in selected cases, to a few tropical fruit types. Where this system can be practiced it has considerable economic advantages in saving the cost of building, labour and equipment and can result in lower levels of damage into crops.

Pre-cooling. Little innovation has occurred in crop pre-cooling over the last decade. However high velocity, high humidity forced air systems have continued to be developed and refined. These are suitable for all types of produce and are relatively simple to build and operate and, while not providing the speed of cooling of a vacuum or hydrocooler, have the flexibility to be used with almost all crops.

Chemicals. There is a very strong health lobby whose objective is to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture and particularly during the post harvest period. Every year sees the prohibition of the use of commonly used post-harvest chemicals. New ways need to be developed to control post-harvest diseases, pest and sprouting.

Coatings. Slowing down the metabolism of fruit and vegetables by coating them with a material which affects their gaseous exchange is being tested and used commercially on a number of products.

Controlled environment transport. Recent innovations in this technique have produced great progress as a result of the development and miniaturisation of equipment to measure carbon dioxide and oxygen. Several companies now offer containers where the levels of these two gases can be controlled very precisely.

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