For all fresh produce, variety selection, climatic conditions and growing practices will greatly affect the quality at harvest. Successful marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables depends on maintaining the quality harvested.
Ten Important Guidelines for Postharvest Handling:
1. MATURITY. Harvest the product at the correct stage of maturity.
2. REDUCE INJURIES. Reduce the physical handling to a minimum; every time the product is handled, it is damaged.
3. PROTECT PRODUCT. Protect the harvested product from the sun; bring it rapidly from the field/exposed area to the packing station and keep out of the direct sun. Transport carefully.
4. CLEANLINESS & SANITATION. Keep the packing line as simple as possible and keep it clean. If water is used, use clean water or a sanitizer if the water is reused. Maintain strict worker hygiene.
5. PACK CAREFULLY. Sort, classify and pack the product carefully to achieve uniformity and to prevent damage (compression, scrapes, etc.) which causes decay and inferior quality; use an adequate box or container. Packaging can also be informative.
6. PALLETIZE. Insure that the boxes are well placed on the pallet and that the pallet is strapped.
7. COOL. Cool the product as soon as possible after harvest; generally for every hour of delay from harvest to initiate cooling, one day of shelf-life is lost. Lowering product temperature is the most important wayto reduce deterioration.
8. KNOW PRODUCT. Know the requirements of the market (size, ripeness, etc) and the product handling requirements (temp., RH, shelf-life, etc.) of the product.
9. COORDINATION. Always try to coordinate the postharvest handling so that it is efficient and rapid.
10. TRAINING. Train and compensate well the workers involved in critical postharvest handling steps; make sure that workers have the necessary tools to facilitate their work.
Fresh products are alive and respire (e.g. enzymatically converting sugars and acids in the presence of oxygen to carbon dioxide and heat).
Careful postharvest handling aims to reduce the rate of respiration and the rate of other processes that cause deterioration and quality loss (water loss, many biochemical changes, softening,etc).
Careful, clean, and efficient handling is more important than the sophistication of the postharvest equipment used.
For Specialty Crops, Make Educated Guesses
When dealing with new crops and determining how they should be handled postharvest, one can make a few educated guesses based on the following questions:
1. Is the crop of tropical or temperate origin? This will likely indicate whether or not it is chilling sensitive.
2. Is the crop a leaf, root or fruit? This can help indicate how susceptible it is to water loss.
3. If the crop is a fruit, are there noticeable “ripening” changes after harvest? The degree of change after harvest is generally related to its rate of deterioration.
4. Are you harvesting the crop when it is rapidly growing or when it has completed its growth phase? Rapidly growing crops generally have very high respiration rates and high deterioration rates.
5. If the crop is a leafy product, are there rapid color changes? This may indicate how sensitive the deterioration process is and how sensitive it may be to exposure to the contaminant ethylene.
6. If the crop is a fruit, are there rapid textural and compositional (starch to sugar conversion) changes? This may indicate a “climateric” type fruit which would produce a lot of ethylene.
7. What are the postharvest characteristics of a related product (another species of the same genus, another genus of the same family, etc.)? Refer to the table for information on various products.
8. What is the estimated storage temperature? Try to place the product into one of the following categories:
A. low temperature (32-41°F)
B. moderate (41-50°F)
C. moderately high (50-60°F)
9. What is the estimated shelf-life? Try to categorize into one of following categories:
A. short shelf-life: 1-6 days
B. moderate: 7-21 days
C. long: 3-12 weeks or longer
10. Is the product very tender and delicate? Does it bruise easily? This will help to determine what an appropriate packaging system might be.
Basic Postharvest Principles
Harvest at the optimum maturity for best eating quality.
Harvest during the coolest part of the day.
Harvest and handle gently.
Preparation for market often involves cleaning, trimming, washing and grading.
Pack carefully: do not overpack or underpack.
Handout Potsharvest Technology Departemen Of Postharvest Technology Lampung University by : Ir. Yeni