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Eye-Appealing, Mouth-Watering Mangoes for Mass Marketing

By Judy McBride
January 14, 2000

The perfect mango melts in your mouth. But many aren’t perfect.

This tropical fruit is susceptible to injury during cold storage. When the thermometer dips below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), mango skin becomes pitted and discolored, and the flesh darkens and becomes susceptible to decay.

Luckily, Agricultural Research Service and Mexican scientists have discovered that methyl jasmonate prevents chilling injury. This sweet-smelling compound derived from the essential oils of plants--especially jasmine and honeysuckle--is safe and relatively inexpensive. For $50, one could treat truckloads of fruit.

The researchers gave mangoes a whiff of methyl jasmonate for 24 hours at 68 degrees F before storing the fruit for two weeks at 41 degrees F. The treatment prevented chilling injury and dramatically improved overall fruit quality, compared to untreated fruit.

It didn’t alter normal ripening and softening processes or increase water loss. And it works on fruits at various stages of maturity, according to Chien Y. Wang and J. George Buta with ARS’ Horticultural Crops Quality Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. They tested the mangoes with Gustavo A. Gonzalez-Aguilar, a visiting plant physiologist from Hermosillo, Mexico.

More than 95 percent of mangoes sold here are imported from Mexico and Central and South America. In 1998, the U.S. population consumed 412 million pounds--an increase of 77 percent from 1993.

The researchers also found how to preserve fresh-cut mangoes for two weeks when stored at 50 degrees F. They treated the slices with a combination of hexylresorcinol, isoascorbic acid and potassium sorbate--all food-safe compounds derived from natural products. Then they stored the slices in plastic containers to prevent drying.

Mangos could be an attractive addition to the growing market for fresh-cut produce, but browning and drying have prevented such marketing. The new treatment could change that.

ARS is the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Chien Y. Wang, ARS Horticultural Crops Quality Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-6128, fax (301) 504-5107,