Fresh-cut Vegetables

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Wounds inflicted during the preparation of fresh-cut vegetables promote many physical and physiological changes that hasten loss of product quality (Brecht, 1995; Saltveit, 1997). Foremost among these, are the removal of the protective epidermal layer and/or exposure of internal cells. These changes not only facilitate water loss, but also provides an easy entry for microbial pathogens and chemical contaminants. Packaging and/or application of edible films can lessen water loss by maintaining a high RH near the cut surface, and providing a physical barrier that protects the product from contamination.

Water loss and collapse of injured cells at the cut surface can alter the appearance of the fresh-cut product. As the cut surface loses water, adhering cellular debris may impart a white blush to the surface that masks varietal color, eg., white blush on ‘baby’ carrots decreases the intensity of the underlying orange color. Differential dehydration of exposed cortex and vascular tissue may produce an uneven surface, eg., vascular strands projecting a few millimeters from the cut end of celery petioles. Consumers associate both of these surface changes with the loss of freshness.

M. Margaret Barth
Hong Zhuang
Mikal E. Saltveit
USDA Agriculture Handbook