Within-Season Volatile and Quality Differences in Stored Fresh-Cut Cantaloupe Cultivars
Cantaloupe cultivar variability from various U.S. regions and growing seasons within a given year was evaluated. As expected, there was often considerable quality and volatile variation among cultivars. Eight of 11 cultivars met the standard U.S. No. 1 requirement for °Brix (≥9), and in most cultivars, °Brix declined during fresh-cut storage at 4 °C. Hunter L* (loss of lightness color value) and a* (decline of typical orange hue) colors also generally declined during storage in most cultivars. Volatile ester compounds generally decreased during fresh-cut storage or exhibited a transient increase before declining after 5-7 days of storage. The relative percentage of acetate esters declined during storage in all cultivars, and declines were accompanied by simultaneous non-acetate ester increases. Slight imbalances in compound concentrations may alter the overall perception of desirable, typical “cantaloupe” aroma/flavor during fresh-cut storage. Upsetting the unique aroma balance through storage may negatively affect flavor and the consumer’s perception of desirable attributes, even though total volatile levels might not decrease substantially until after 5-7 days in storage. Subtle volatile and quality decreases are likely to be exacerbated with immature-harvested cantaloupe and are likely in out-of-season exports that have likewise been harvested at less mature stages. Altogether, this study indicates the difficulty in procuring cantaloupes of consistent quality from local producers, in a given year, for domestically grown fruit.