University of California

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Preparation and Handling Fresh-Cut Root Vegetables

Merete Edelenbos (University of Aarhus, Department of Food Science, Aarslev, Denmark)

Root vegetables are among the most important food crops consumed worldwide. Root vegetables include true roots and specialized tubers and hypocotyls with a subterranean habit. The value of fresh-cut produce lies in their convenience, freshness and health properties. High quality produce can only be obtained from raw materials with an also high quality. The initial quality is determined by the genetic background, climatic conditions, cultivation practices, soil type, maturity at harvest and time in storage. The first step in handling is to wash and polish roots and to screen, sort, and grade, to remove soil and defective roots. Produce is peeled in a rotation carborundum drum or by knives to remove the outer skin. In this process, aroma and health promoting compounds can be lost if concentrated in the periderm. Up to 30 percent of solids are lost with mechanical abrasion. Cutting has a derived effect on quality; increased respiration and moisture losses, transitional ethylene production, evaporation of volatile compounds, mixing of enzymes and substrates and formation of volatiles, phenolics, and other secondary metabolites. Quality is less affected by sharp than blunt knives. Washing after cutting will remove cell exudate and lower incidence of microorganisms. However, washing also dilutes the contents of sensory and health promoting compounds. In spin drying, juice and washing water is removed and that affects flavour and taste. Processing has no or little effect on texture but can enhance tissue browning. Produce will dry out and lose moisture and change flavour if not packaged in appropriate material, with suitable moisture- and gas-barrier properties.

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