Effect of Harvest Maturity on the Sensory Characteristics of Fresh-cut Cantaloupe
Maintaining flavor, aroma, microbial, and postharvest quality after processing and throughout the distribution chain is a major challenge facing the fresh-cut fruit industry. Flavor and aroma are most often the true indicators of shelf-life from the consumer’s point of view. Changes in post-cutting sensory attributes during freshcut storage at 4 °C in cantaloupe harvested at 4 distinct maturities (¼, ½, ¾, and full slip) were subsequently investigated. Trained descriptive sensory panelists were used in a 2-y study to assess sensory differences after 0, 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, and 14 d. A texture analyzer was also used in an attempt to verify textural properties revealed by the panelists. The ¼- slip harvested fruit were firmer than the other 3 maturities, and ¼-slip cubes retained the most firmness through freshcut storage. Correspondingly, fruity and sweet aromatic flavor were significantly less intense in the ¼-slip cubes compared with ½- and ¾-slip maturities. Sweet taste was consistently significantly less intense in the ¼-slip cubes than the other maturities during the entire storage period. Hardness was more intense (harder) in ¼-slip cubes during 0 to 9 d. This trend was almost identical in the instrumental texture determinations for the force and slope at the 1st bioyield point of the force deformation curves. Meanwhile, ¼-slip cubes were significantly less intense than the other maturities in surface wetness and moisture release on day 0 and throughout storage. It appears that fresh-cut cantaloupe cubes with desirable sensorial attributes can be prepared with fruit when harvested ½ slip but not from ≥ ¼-slip fruit.