Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is one of the most important vegetables worldwide. As it is a relatively short duration crop and gives a high yield, it is economically attractive and the area under cultivation is increasing. Tomato belongs to the Solanaceae family. Tomatoes contribute to a healthy, well-balanced diet. They are rich in minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, sugars and dietary fibers. Tomato contains vitamin B and C, iron and phosphorus. Tomato fruits are consumed fresh in salads or cooked in sauces, soup and meat or fish dishes. But for their use in long term they must be preserved through certain treatments. Yellow tomatoes have higher vitamin A content than red tomatoes, but red tomatoes contain lycopene, an anti-oxidant that may contribute to protection against carcinogenic substances. So for its proper preservation you have to assess its maturity indices and quality indices.
Maturity and Quality indices:-
1) Maturity Indices
Standard Tomatoes. Minimum harvest maturity is defined by internal fruit structure indices. Seeds are fully developed and are not cut upon slicing the fruit. Gel formation is advanced in at least one locule and jellylike material is forming in other locules.
ESL Tomatoes.* Off-vine ripening is severely affected if fruit are harvested at the MG2 stage. Minimum harvest maturity is better defined as equivalent to ripeness class Pink
*Extended Shelf-Life trait is due, in part, to either the presence of the rin or nor gene.
2) Quality indices
Standard tomato quality is primarily based on uniform shape and freedom from growth or handling defects. Size is not a factor of grade quality but may strongly influence commercial quality expectations.
Shape. Well-formed for type (round, globe, flattened globe)
Color. Uniform color (orange-red to deep red; light yellow). No green shoulders.
Appearance. Smooth and small blossom-end scar and stem-end scar. Absence of growth cracks, cat facing, zippering, sunscald, insect injury, and mechanical injury or bruises.
Firmness. Yields to firm hand pressure. Not soft and easily deformed due to an overripe condition.
TEMPERATURE & CONTROLLED ATMOSPHERE (CA)
Mature Green: 12.5-15°C (55-60°F)
Light Red :10-12.5°C (50-55°F)
Firm-ripe :7-10°C (44-50°F) for 3-5 days
Mature-green tomatoes can be stored up to 14 days prior to ripening at 12.5°C (55°F) without significant reduction of sensory quality and color development. Decay is likely to increase following storage beyond two weeks, at this temperature. Typically 8-10 days of shelf-life are attainable within the optimum temperature range after reaching the Firm-ripe stage. Short term storage or transit temperatures below this range are used by some in the trade but will result in chilling injury after several days.
18-21°C (65-70°F); 90-95% R.H. for standard ripening 14-16°C (57-61°F) for slow ripening (i.e. in transit).
Chilling Injury. Tomatoes are chilling sensitive at temperatures below 10°C (50°F) if held for longer than 2 weeks or at 5°C (41°F) for longer than 6-8 days. Consequences of chilling injury are failure to ripen and develop full color and flavor, irregular (blotchy) color development, premature softening, surface pitting, browning of seeds, and increased decay (especially Black mold caused by Alternaria spp.). Chilling injury is cumulative and may be initiated in the field prior to harvest.
Optimum relative humidity:-
High relative humidity is essential to maximize postharvest quality and prevent water loss (desiccation). Extended periods of higher humidity or condensation may encourage the growth of stem-scar and surface molds.
Rates of respiration:-
|Mature-Green Ripening||Green Ripening|
Rates of Ethylene Production
1.2-1.5µl/kg·hr at 10°C (50°F)
4.3-4.9µl/kg·hr at 20°C (68°F)
Responses to Ethylene
Tomatoes are sensitive to exogenous ethylene and exposure of mature-green fruit to ethylene will initiate ripening. Ripening tomatoes produce ethylene at a moderate rate and co-storage or shipment with sensitive commodities, such as lettuce and cucumbers, should be avoided.
Faster ripening results from higher temperatures between 12.5-25°C (55-77°F); 90-95% R.H.; 100 ppm ethylene. Good air circulation must be maintained to ensure temperature uniformity within the ripening room and to prevent the accumulation of CO2. CO2 (above 1%) retards the action of ethylene in stimulating ripening.
The optimum ripening temperature to ensure sensory and nutritive quality is 20°C (68°F). Color development is optimal and retention of vitamin C content is highest at this ripening temperature. Tomatoes allowed to ripen off-the-vine above 25°C (77°F) will develop a more yellow and less red color and will be softer.
Ethylene treatment typically extends for 24-72 hours. A second treatment period may follow repacking if immature green fruit were included in the harvest.
Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)
Controlled atmosphere storage or shipping offer a moderate level of benefit. Low O2 levels (3-5%) delay ripening and the development of surface and stem-scar molds without severely impacting sensory quality for most consumers. Storage times of up to 7 weeks have been reported for tomatoes using a combination of 4% O2, 2% CO2, and 5% CO2. More typically, 3% O2 and 0-3% CO2 are used to maintain acceptable quality for up to 6 weeks prior to ripening. Elevated CO2 above 3-5 % is not tolerated by most cultivars and will cause injury. Low O2 (1%) will cause off-flavors, objectionable odors, and other condition defects, such as internal browning.
Physiological and physical Disorders:-
Freezing injury: will be initiated at -1°C (30°F), depending on the soluble solids content. Symptoms of freezing injury include a water soaked appearance, excessive softening, and desiccated appearance of the locular gel. Tomatoes are sensitive to many production and environment-genetic interaction disorders which may be manifested during postharvest ripening or postharvest inspection. Fertilizer and irrigation management, weather conditions, insect feeding injury, asymptomatic virus infection, and unknown agents may interact to affect postharvest quality. Examples are Blossom-end Rot, Internal White Tissue, Rain Checking, Concentric and Radial, Puffiness, Persistent Green Shoulder, and Gray wall.
Diseases are an important source of postharvest loss depending on season, region and handling practices. Commonly, decay or surface lesions result from the fungal pathogens Alternaria (Black Mold Rot), Botrytis (Gray Mold Rot), Geotrichum (Sour Rot), and Rhizopus (Hairy Rot).
Bacterial Soft Rot. Caused by Erwinia spp. can be a serious problem particularly if proper harvest and packinghouse sanitation is not used.
Treatment with hot air or hot water immersion (55°C for 0.5-1.0 min.) has been effective in preventing surface mold but has not been used extensively for commercial treatments. CA can be effective in delaying fungal growth on the stem-end and fruit surface.
Greenhouse tomatoes marketed on-the-vine (“cluster tomatoes”) are very susceptible to Botrytis Gray Mold, especially if film-wrapped in a tray.
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Bsc. (hons.) Agicultural sciences (horticulture)