Factors of harvesting fruits and vegetables
Quality of produce are greatly influenced by season. e.g. Winter season harvest having more shelf life as compared to other season while off season fruits and vegetables give more remunerative price. Harvesting during or immediately after rains should not be carried out since it creates most favourable conditions for multiplication of micro organisms. Citrus fruits become susceptible to damage if harvested during rains as their rind becomes turgid and prone to easy bruising, sun-scald etc.
2. Time of harvesting
Fruits and vegetables should always be harvested when temperature is mild. Because, higher temperature leads to faster respiration. Morning harvest of horticultural crop prefer for local market because they are fully fresh and turgid and having dew drop in this time. Evening harvesting is preferred for distant market due to higher accumulation of reserved carbohydrates and less amount of moisture which give the better quality of the produce to consumer. Leafy vegetables harvested in the latter part of the morning or late in the afternoon, the petioles of these vegetables break less easily and their leaves are more resistant to tearing, since they have lost water through transpiration and therefore are less brittle. Cucumber is harvested in the late morning when it to be transported under less than ideal condition because it is less prone to injury when it contains less water.
3. Method of harvesting
Selection of suitable method for harvesting of the produce is necessary otherwise bruises or injuries during harvesting may later manifest as black or brown patches making them unattractive. Latex coming out of stem in mango should not be allowed to fall on fruits as it creates a black spot. Injury to peel may become an entry point for microorganisms, causing rotting. Some harvesting gadgets have been developed, e.g. mango harvester.
4. Stage of harvesting
Fruits and vegetables must be harvested at right stage of maturity. A very common cause of poor product quality at harvest and rapid deterioration thereafter is harvesting immature vegetables. Vegetables harvested immature or over mature usually do not keep long. Fruit, vegetables harvested too early lose water fast and are more susceptible to mechanical damage and microbial attack. An over mature vegetable is more susceptible to decay, has passed its best eating quality and deteriorates fast. The stage of maturity and harvest affects fruit quality. Generally, the fruits harvested at the advanced stage of maturity have increased fruits size and eating qualities (taste and aroma) but decreased shelf life. e.g. mango fruits are harvested 7 days before optimum maturity showed better storage performance but failed to arrest skin discoloration, and caused even ripening.
5. Consumer demand
Harvesting time and harvest maturity can be altered by the requirement of the consumer’s demand which may affect the quality of the produce at some extent.
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