University of California

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Preharvest factors and fresh-cut quality of leafy vegetables

Mabel Gil (CEBAS-CSIC, Murcia, Spain)

Quality losses concerns of fresh-cut leafy vegetables are mainly due to 1) browning of cut edges due to tissue disruption and oxidative processes, 2) increased respiration and metabolic reactions with development of off-odours and 3) tissue softening. The quality and postharvest shelf life of fresh-cut leafy vegetables can be affected by a range of pre-harvest factors. The potential shelf-life of the fresh-cut product through the evaluation of the raw material and the processed product will be revised for the selection of cultivars with lower response for cutting. Environmental conditions such as temperature, RH, light intensity and rainfall influences cultivation in different production areas and growing cycles. Agricultural practices particularly irrigation regimens that have a direct effect on the quality of leafy vegetables. On the other hand, fertilizers and cultivation systems will be revised as growing systems for baby leaves. Maturity stage also affects the shelf-life of fresh-cut leafy vegetables. Over-mature lettuce has a shorter shelf-life of the fresh-cut product because of the higher browning potential versus fermentation in the immature stage. Differences in the quality related to the turgid and the susceptible to mechanical damage of the leafy vegetables at different harvest time should be presented. Postharvest handling conditions particularly relative humidity will be also examined as critical conditions to maintain the quality of fresh-cut leafy vegetables. The beneficial effect of different cooling systems such as the use of cold rooms, forced-air cooling, vacuum cooling and hydro vacuum-cooling will be revised.

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