Quality Changes in Cantaloupe During Growth, Maturation, and in Stored Fresh-cut Cubes Prepared from Fruit Harvested at Various Maturities
Cantaloupe (Cucumis melo L. var. reticulatus Naudin) were evaluated during development and then freshcut cubes were stored after preparation from various maturities to track quality changes during storage. Flowers were anthesis tagged one morning in two seasons (years) and developing fruit were harvested weekly at 13, 20, 27 to 28, and 34 to 35 days after anthesis (DAA). Mature fruit were harvested at 37 to 38 DAA with five distinct maturities: 1/4-, 1/2-, 3/4-slip, full-slip (FS), and overripe (OR). Hunter L* and a* color values indicated a change from pale green to light orange that occurred 28 DAA. There were significant decreases in L*, a*, and b* by day 9 in storage (4 °C) as fresh-cut cubes. After 28 DAA, sucrose dramatically increased, and this was positively correlated with increases in both total sugars (r = 0.882, P = 0.084) and percent soluble solids concentration (r = 0.939, P = 0.041). Gradual deterioration occurred during storage, as determined by a uniform subjective quality criterion, which was independent of maturity. There was a negative linear trend in hand-held and instrumental firmness over the length of storage for each maturity level, and the slopes decreased significantly with increasing maturity, indicating the effect of storage duration decreased as harvest maturity increased. There was a significant increasing trend in vitamin C (P = 0.042) during development from 12 through 35 DAA, then losses were greater in fresh-cut cubes prepared from full-slip fruit (65%) than less-mature fruit: 3/4-slip, 50%; 1/2-slip, 48%; 1/4-slip, 40%. The pH of mesocarp tissue dropped to the lowest value (5.25) just before physiological maturity at 27 to 28 DAA, then peaked after harvest (6.51–6.79), and declined somewhat by the end of storage as fresh-cut cubes. In sum, muskmelon fruit used to produce fresh-cut cubes should be harvested ≥1/2-slip to attain optimum physiological quality and consumer acceptability.