Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: July 22, 2009
Publication Date: November 1, 2010
Citation: Baldwin, E.A., Bai, J. 2010. Physiology of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. In: Martin-Belloso, O., Soliva-Fortuny, R., editors. Advances in Fresh-Cut Fruits and Vegetables Processing. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 87-113.
The idea to pre-process fruits and vegetables in the fresh state started with fresh-cut salads and now has expanded to fresh-cut fruits and other vegetables. The fresh-cut portion of the fresh produce industry includes fruits, vegetables, sprouts, mushrooms and even herbs that are cut, cored, sliced, peeled, diced, or shredded, but not heated or altered from their fresh state in any way. Physiologically, this is in fact wounding living tissue which starts a cascade of metabolic reactions that can result in texture changes, accelerated ripening and/or senescence, off flavors, discoloration and other undesirable events that can render the product unmarketable. Microbiologically, removing the protective peel of fresh produce leaves a cut surface that is awash with cell contents, which makes the surface attractive to plant pathogens. The extra handling and processing of the produce results in increased ethylene, a gaseous ripening plant hormone, which results in genetic signals that promote ripening and senescence. The handling and processing also increases the respiration rate, using up sugar and acid substrates and shortening shelf life. Finally, the extra handling, removal of the peel and altering of the normal microbial ecology of fresh-cut products allow for possible contamination by and growth of human pathogens.