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Ambani R. Mudau, Mpumelelo M. Nkomo, Puffy Soundy, Hintsa T. Araya, Wonder Ngezimana, and Fhatuwani N. Mudau

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a member of the Amaranthaceae family. Baby spinach leaves have a very high respiration rate, thus postharvest quality is affected mostly by tissue decay and the development of off-odors. Thus, this study was conducted to investigate the influence of storage temperature and time on the postharvest quality of baby spinach. Baby spinach leaves were harvested 36 days after planting and subsequently stored at 4 and 22 °C for 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 days. Thereafter, the leaves were incubated for 72 hours at 40 °C to dry. Minerals, trace elements, total phenols, total carotenoids, flavonoids, and antioxidant activities were measured. Concentration of magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), and iron (Fe) were declined after 8 days of storage at 4 °C, while at 22 °C they declined after 2 days of storage. Mg, Zn, and Fe revealed a similar trend with significantly higher carotenoids found up to 6 days in storage at 4 °C, while at 22 °C the carotenoid levels declined after only 2 days. Total phenolic compounds gradually decreased in samples stored at 4 °C. However, samples stored at 22 °C showed a rapid decrease after 4 days. Both total antioxidant activities and vitamin C content showed a similar trend, with the content remaining constant at 4 °C and decreasing after 6 days, whereas the total antioxidant activities and vitamin C for leaves stored at 22 °C decreased immediately after 2 days. Results demonstrated that quality of baby spinach deteriorates as storage time and temperature increase.