Harvesting before ripening initiation (i.e., mature green) may negatively affect the flavor of fresh tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) even though the ripening process off the vine is physiologically the same as that on the plant. Low temperature storage at or below the putative chilling injury (CI) threshold can also have detrimental effects on fresh tomato flavor regardless of the developmental stage of the fruit at harvest, but sensitivity to CI declines with ripening. Controlled atmospheres (CA) using reduced oxygen and elevated carbon dioxide partial pressures can extend the shelf life (SL) of tomatoes while possibly minimizing the negative effects of low temperatures. In this study, we explored the possibility that a combination of temperature and CA could be used to achieve similar SL for pink-harvested tomatoes as has been found in other studies with green-harvested fruit while avoiding the negative effects of CI on sensory quality. Consumer panels were given samples of pink-harvested tomatoes after they had reached the red ripeness stage in terms of surface hue following storage for 7 days in air or CA at 7.5, 15, or 20 °C followed by 2–7 days ripening in air at 20 °C. Exposing pink tomatoes to 7.5 °C before ripening to the full-red stage at 20 °C negatively affected fruit sensory quality, holding fruit constantly at 20 °C until they reached the full-red stage resulted in better quality for one taste panel, whereas there was no difference in another taste panel. The time to reach the full-red stage was extended by CA. Sensory quality of air- and CA-stored fruit was similar at the nonchilling temperatures of 15 and 20 °C. Pink stage tomato fruit stored in CA at 7.5 °C for 7 days did not attain full red color within the subsequent 7 days in air at 20 °C.
This research was supported by Specialty Crops Research Initiative Grant 2009-51181-05783 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The paper is a portion of a doctoral dissertation submitted by Angelos I. Deltsidis in fulfilling the University of Florida degree requirement.
Current address: International Postharvest Specialist, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616.
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