Effect of Ethylene and Temperature Conditioning on Sensory Attributes and Chemical Composition of 'Comice' Pears
‘Comice’ is among the pear varieties most difficult to ripen after harvest. Ethylene, cold temperature, and intermediate (10 °C) temperature conditioning have been successfully used to stimulate the ability of ‘Comice’ pears to ripen. However, the sensory quality of pears stimulated to ripen by different conditioning treatments has not been evaluated. In this study, a descriptive sensory analysis of ‘Comice’ pears conditioned to soften to 27, 18, and 9 N firmness with ethylene exposure for 3 or 1 days, storage at 0 °C for 25 or 15 days, or storage at 10 °C for 10 days was performed. Sensory attributes were then related to changes in chemical composition, including volatile components, water-soluble polyuronides, soluble solids content (SSC), and titratable acidity (TA). The sensory profile of fruit conditioned with ethylene was predominant in fibrous texture and low in fruity and pear aroma. Fruit conditioned at 0 °C was described as crunchy at 27 and 18 N firmness and became juicy at 9 N firmness. Fruit conditioned at 0 °C produced the highest quantity of alcohols and fewer esters than fruit conditioned at 10 °C, and they had higher fruity and pear aroma than fruit conditioned with ethylene, but lower than fruit conditioned at 10 °C. Fruit held at 10 °C were predominant in fruity and pear aroma and had the highest concentration of esters. Water-soluble polyuronides were strongly, positively correlated (r > 0.9) with sensory attributes generally associated with ripeness, including juiciness, butteriness, and sweetness and negatively correlated (r > −0.9) with sensory attributes generally associated with the unripe stage, such as firmness and crunchiness. However, water-soluble polyuronides were not significantly different among conditioning treatments. Sensory sweetness was not significantly correlated with SSC, but TA and SSC/TA were significantly correlated with sensory tartness. However, there were no significant differences among the conditioning treatments in sweet or sour taste perception when the fruit fully softened. The results indicate that the various methods of conditioning ‘Comice’ pear fruits for ripening had different effects on their sensory and chemical properties that may influence their sensory quality.