Postharvest handling and cooling of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers for small farms: Cooling

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Field heat should be removed from fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers as quickly as possible after harvest. Each commodity should be maintained at its lowest safe temperature. Cooling and storage requirements for specific commodities are presented below, in NC Cooperative Extension Service Publication AG-414-1, and USDA Agricultural Handbook No. 66.
Proper postharvest cooling can:

  • Suppress enzymatic degradation (softening) and respiratory activity
  • Slow or inhibit water loss (wilting)
  • Slow or inhibit the growth of decayproducing microorganisms (molds and bacteria)
  • Reduce the production of ethylene (a ripening agent) or minimize the commodity’s reaction to ethylene

In addition to protecting quality, postharvest cooling enhances marketing flexibility by making it possible to market fruits, vegetables, and flowers at more optimum times. The ability to cool and store commodities minimizes the need to market immediately after harvest. This can be an advantage for high-volume growers as well as pick-your-own (P-Y-O) operators and those who wish to supply restaurants and grocery stores.

L. G. Wilson
M. D. Boyette
E. A. Estes
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service