Impact of Storage Conditions on Grape Tomato Quality
Storage and ripening recommendations for tomatoes are well known, but quality problems associated with poor temperature management continue to occur during distribution. Grape and cherry tomatoes, also called ‘snacking’ tomatoes, now constitute about 24% of the value of all tomatoes sold in U.S. supermarkets. New marketing opportunities, such as grape tomatoes in trays of fresh-cut vegetables, expose fruit to temperatures of 5°C or below often in combination with modified atmospheres, conditions at odds with postharvest recommendations for good tomato quality. Several studies were conducted on different varieties of grape tomatoes. 1-MCP only slightly retarded ripening and delays to cool affected subsequent color and water loss. Storage at 10°C resulted in excellent quality fruit. At 5°C, near ripe grape tomatoes were of marketable quality for 18 days. Storage at 5°C resulted in minimal weight loss, no lycopene synthesis, decreases in sugar concentrations and retention of Vitamin C concentrations. However, if fruit were transferred from 5°C to warmer temperatures, typical chilling injury symptoms (decay, poor color formation) occurred. Controlled atmospheres of 3 or 10% oxygen with 0, 7, 12 or 18% carbon dioxide at 5°C provided little benefit but were tolerated by grape tomatoes for up to 3 weeks based on visual appearance, discoloration, decay, off-odors, and changes in composition (sugars, Vitamin C, and ethanol and acetaldehyde concentrations). Although not ideal, near ripe high quality grape tomatoes do perform well as components of fresh-cut vegetable trays at low temperature under controlled atmospheres not recommended for tomatoes.