After all the effort and money invested in production, it is essential that fruit be handled well at harvesting and transportation to the market.
Most growers pick twice and even three times a week, in hot weather. Pick fruit carefully and place in rigid, padded containers to avoid bruising and damage. The color of the fruit should be as uniform as possible to speed up grading in the packing house and to enable uniform treatment of all fruit in storage. It is critical that every effort be made to minimize a loss in fruit quality while the produce is in transit.
Maturity of the fruit at harvest time is important. Fruit harvested before it is fully developed is more susceptible to handling injury because of inadequate development of the protective waxy layer. Tomato fruit is sometimes harvested with the calyx so as to identify it as a greenhouse product. Take care to ensure that the calyx does not puncture the fruit. Overfilling the crate or stacking the produce too high may damage the bottom layer.
Harvest fruit in the early morning, when it is cool and when fruit temperature is not too high. Move produce out of direct sunlight and into cool, shaded, and ventilated areas immediately after harvest so that fruit temperature is not increased.
Use a covered vehicle to transport the produce to the packing shed, thus protecting the fruit from direct sunlight and exposure to the drying effect of air. Do not park a loaded truck in direct sunlight for any length of time. During transportation, minimize heat gain and place produce in cold storage (12 °C) as soon as it arrives at its destination, Stacking the crates too high or too tight does not allow the crates in the middle to cool down adequately when the product is stored in a cooler.
Packing and storing produce in the same place as active ethylene producers, such as apples, accelerates ripening and results in overripe produce. When the fruit is removed from cold storage, do not allowwater to condense on it. Prevent condensation by keeping the environment dry through ventilation or by raising the storage temperature gradually before the fruit is removed. Once the fruit is harvested its quality can only be preserved, not increased.
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