Submitted to: Journal of Food Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/10/2004
Publication Date: 12/15/2004
Citation: Beaulieu, J.C., Ingram, D.A., Lea, J.M., Bett Garber, K.L. 2004. Effect of harvest maturity on the sensory characteristics of fresh-cut cantaloupe. Journal of Food Science. 69(7):S250-S258. Interpretive Summary: Fresh-cut fruit sales have grown in a linear manner, at roughly $1 billion per year, however, sales have lagged behind their counterpart, vegetables, due to complicated physiological and biochemical events that are not as common in fresh-cut salads. Consumers often buy the first time based on appearance, but repeat purchases are driven by internal quality factors, such as, flavor and texture. There is limited information available concerning the sensory characteristics of stored fresh-cut fruits, as determined by professionally trained panelists using descriptive sensory analysis. Since cantaloupe quality and flavor are highly dependent on the initial ripeness of the fruit (maturity, termed as 'slip'), we performed an analysis of flavor and texture changes in stored fresh-cut cantaloupe that was prepared from four different initial maturities (¼-slip, ½-slip, ¾-slip and full-slip). We found that fresh-cut cantaloupe cubes with desirable sensorial attributes can be prepared with fruit when harvested ½-slip, but not from ¼-slip fruit. This information will help the industry realize that initial product maturity is critical for continued sales and enhancing their customer base.
Technical Abstract: Maintaining flavor, aroma, postharvest and microbial quality after processing, and throughout the distribution chain, is a major challenge facing the fresh-cut fruit industry. Flavor and aroma are most often the true indicators of shelf life from the consumer's point of view. Changes in post-cutting sensory attributes during fresh-cut storage at 4°C in cantaloupe harvested at 4 distinct maturities, were subsequently investigated. Trained descriptive sensory panelists were utilized in a 2-year study to assess sensory differences after 0, 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, and 14 days. A Texture Analyzer was also utilized in an attempt to verify textural properties revealed by the panelists. The ¼-slip harvested fruit was firmer than the other three maturities, and these cubes retained the most firmness through fresh-cut storage. Upon processing (day 0), the ½-, ¾-, and full-slip cantaloupe did not differ significantly in most flavor and texture attributes. Correspondingly, fruity and sweet aromatic flavor were significantly less intense in the ¼-slip cubes compared with ½-and ¾-slip maturities. Sweet taste was consistently significantly less intense in the ¼-slip cubes during the entire storage period. Hardness was more intense (harder) in ¼-slip cubes during 0 - 5 d. This trend was almost identical in the instrumental texture determinations of the Young's elastic modulus and total area under the force deformation curve. Meanwhile, ¼-slip cubes were significantly less intense in surface wetness and moisture release on day 0, and throughout storage. It appears that fresh-cut cantaloupe cubes with desirable sensorial attributes can be prepared with fruit when harvested ½-slip, but not from ¼-slip fruit.