Maria Cefola (Institute of Sciences of Food Production, CNR - National Research Council of Italy Via G. Amendola, 122/O – 70126 Bari, Italy) Maria Luisa Amodio and Giancarlo Colelli (Dept. SAFE, University of Foggia, Via Napoli 25, 71122 Foggia, Italy)
Zucchini male flowers (Cucurbita pepo L.) are greatly appreciated by consumers although, due to their high perishability, they are destined only to local markets. The effects of four different atmosphere compositions (air, 3% O2 in nitrogen, 3% O2 + 10% CO2 in air, and 10% CO2 in air) on quality attributes of cut zucchini male flower(color, weight loss, respiration, fermentative volatiles, and vitamin C) were studied. Storage in controlled atmosphere significantly (P<0.05) affected postharvest quality and marketability of ready-to-use zucchini flowers. At 5 degrees C atmosphere containing 3% O2 in nitrogen determined a reduction in respiration rate and weight loss, and allowed to preserve visual appearance, sensorial and nutritional quality, maintaining the Vitamin C content during the entire cold storage. In this condition fresh zucchini flower were scored still marketable and with a good appearance after 9 days of storage. On the other hand flowers stored in air deteriorated rapidly, resulting just above the limit of marketability (score 3) after 5 days of storage whereas the adding of CO2 to air only slightly increased the flowers shelf-life. Flowers stored in air (with or without CO2) showed the same spoilage symptoms, defined by water soaking, wilting and brightness loss which were reduced in low oxygen atmosphere. Based on these results the proper atmosphere conditions for zucchini male flowers should attain low oxygen levels (3%) which allowed to preserve nutritional quality and fresh appearance of zucchini flowers, avoiding excessive accumulation of CO2.