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  • Author or Editor: Carolyn F. Ross x
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The objective of this study was to identify the influence of harvest time on sensory attributes of sweet cherries (Prunus avium) as evaluated by a trained and consumer panel. Over three separate panel days, trained and consumer panelists evaluated ‘Sweetheart’ cherries that were harvested 3 days before commercial maturity (early harvest), at commercial maturity (midharvest), and 3 days postcommercial maturity (late harvest). Fruit attributes from each harvest time were characterized empirically by quantifying soluble solids concentration, exocarp color, and firmness. A sensory panel (n = 12), trained to recognize and evaluate the attributes of cherry appearance (color intensity), texture (flesh firmness and juiciness), and flavor/taste (sweetness, sourness, and cherry flavor intensity), evaluated the fruit. Fruit were then evaluated by a consumer panel for purchase intent, overall acceptance, appearance, flavor, and texture. From the trained panel results, late-harvest cherries were higher in color and flavor intensity. Midharvest cherries were highest in firmness, while early-harvest cherries were lowest in color intensity and sweetness. Consumer panel results indicated midharvest and late-harvest cherries had the highest overall acceptance, and midharvest cherries had the highest acceptance for appearance. Overall acceptance was strongly correlated to flavor acceptance (r = 0.94). These results indicated that cherries harvested at midharvest were the most preferred of the harvest times despite not having the highest intensities of color, sweetness, or flavor. This indicated the importance of color, sweetness, and flavor of cherries on the overall acceptance and the possible interaction of these attributes in consumer acceptance. Furthermore, the results suggest that standard harvest maturity indicator (i.e., red coloration of exocarp) was appropriate for optimum consumer acceptance of ‘Sweetheart’. More broadly, these results suggest that there is some flexibility for the grower with regards to ‘Sweetheart’ cherry harvest and acceptable sensory properties.

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Machine harvest of ‘Brown Snout’ specialty cider apple (Malus ×domestica) has been shown to provide yield and juice quality characteristics similar to that of hand harvest. In this 2-year study, the sensory perception (color, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, taste, and aftertaste) of ciders produced from machine-harvested and hand-harvested fruit that were ambient stored (56 °F) 0–4 weeks postharvest were compared using a trained panel and electronic tongue (e-tongue). For nearly all sensory attributes evaluated, the trained panelists scored the 2014 machine-harvested samples higher than the 2014 hand-harvested samples. Some of the key sensory differences included a darker color, a more astringent and heated mouthfeel, and a more sour taste of the machine-harvested samples than the hand-harvested samples. Trained panelists perceived no differences due to the harvest method among the 2015 samples for any of the sensory attributes evaluated. The e-tongue demonstrated good discrimination (index value = 95) of 2014 samples, but poor discrimination (index value = −0.5) of 2015 samples, mirroring the year-to-year variation experienced by the trained panelists. Overall, the e-tongue demonstrated a response to metallic and sour that was more associated with the machine-harvested samples and a response to sweet and umami that was more associated with the hand-harvested samples. These results demonstrate that cider made from machine-harvested fruit can have a different sensory profile than cider made from hand-harvested fruit. A consumer tasting panel should be conducted next to provide an indication of market response to the differing sensory profiles, qualifying the impact of harvest method. Results also indicate that ambient storage (56 °F) of fruit up to 4 weeks may not impact cider sensory attributes; however, cider apple growers should avoid ambient storage of machine-harvested fruit given the significant yield losses demonstrated in previous studies. Variation in cider quality due to year of harvest was most likely a result of differences in the hand-harvest technique between the 2 years, specifically more fruit bruising in 2014 than in 2015, demonstrating the importance of harvesting fully mature fruit with a standard protocol so as to supply a consistent raw material to cider producers. The e-tongue produced variable results compared with trained panelists and more development is needed before it can be incorporated into cider sensory evaluation protocol.

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