Shelf-life of Tomato as Affected by Ripeness, Temperature and Handling Practices
In most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, tomato is harvested at the pink to red-ripe stage for marketing. At this stage of maturity, the fruits begin to lose their firmness and often very susceptible to mechanical injury. Attempts to get tomato harvested at the breaker to turning stage of ripeness has not yielded the desired results. In this study, a sequence of anticipated hazards (impact, compression and vibration) encountered in a typical distribution was tested on shelf-life qualities. A vibration test to simulate a truck operating at a highway speed and the ability of shipping units to withstand mechanical forces resulting from stacking were analyzed. Tomato at turning and pink ripeness stages were subjected to a vibration test for 1hr and incubated in ripening chambers set at 15, 20 and 30 ºC. The results showed that temperature exerted the most effect on compositional characteristics, CO2 and ethylene production, color, firmness, weight loss and overall shelf-life. For optimum quality, the fruits should be traded within 2-4, 8-12 and 10-15 days when stored at 30, 20 and 15 ºC respectively, in retail markets.
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