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Postharvest Handling


How you harvest and handle your produce directly affects freshness and flavor. For most vegetables, rapid cooling after harvest slows deterioration, and high humidity prevents moisture loss. Different vegetables respond differently to the cooling method used, storage conditions required, and the temperatures where injury may occur (see Table 1.4). There are several ways to assure that the vegetables grown will maintain their freshness and quality, including cooling, harvesting and handling, washing, and storage conditions.

Tomatoes and other vegetablesTomatoes and other vegetables have specific criteria for optimal longevity for post-harvest storage.

Table 1.4. Cooling method and handling factors recommended to maintain quality and shelf life

Crop Recommend Cooling Methods
Air
Recommend Cooling Methods
Water
Recommend Cooling Methods
Water
Recommend Cooling Methods
Vacuum
Crop Handling-Storage Factors
Temp. (F)
Crop Handling-Storage Factors
Relative Humidity (%)
Crop Handling-Storage Factors
Storage Life*
Crop Handling-Storage Factors
Chilling Injury**
Asparagus   +   + 32-36 95 1-2 w L
Beans + +     40-45 90-95 7-10 d M
Broccoli     +   32 90-95 1-2 w I
Cabbage +       32 90-95 1-3 m I
Other Brassicas + + + + 32 90-95 2-5 w I
Cantaloupe +   +   36-40 85-90 4-14 d M
Cucumber + +     50 90-95 1-2 w H
Eggplant +       50 90-95 1 w H
Endive       + 32 90-95 2-3 w I
Lettuce     + + 32-36 95 1-2 w I
Onions +       32 65-70 1-6 m I
Other Leafy Greens   + + + 32-36 95 1-2 w I
Peppers +     + 45-50 90-95 2-3 w M
Potatoes +       40-45 90 4-8 m L
Root Crops +       32-36 90-95 2-6 m I
Summer Squash + +     50 90-95 4-7 d H
Sweet Corn + + +   32 90-95 5-7 d I
Sweet Potato +       55-60 85-90 3-5 m VH
Tomato +       55-65 85-90 4-14 d M-H
Watermelon   +     45-50 95-90 3-4 w M
Winter Squash +       50-55 50-70 2-6 m M

*Storage life are days (d), weeks (w), or months (m) under the best conditions.

**Chilling injury sensitivity: I-insensitive; L-low; M-moderate; H-high; VH-very high. Sensitivity varies with stage of maturity for some vegetables.

Information from USDA Handbook 66 (www.ba.ars.usda.gov/hb66/contents.html).