New hope for extending fresh-cut vegetable storage

January 4, 2016
ARS scientists evaluated different types of peppers for attributes that prolong the shelf life of fresh-cut peppers. Credit: Scott Bauer

Fresh-cut peppers are handy for snacking and in reducing meal-preparation time for consumers. But sometimes that freshness is short-lived.

Though considerable research has been conducted to develop pepper varieties with greater yield and disease resistance, additional research is needed to develop varieties suitable for retail and food-service markets that require fresh sliced-and-diced product.

Plant geneticist and research leader John Stommel and his research team with the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory, and food technologist Yaguang (Sunny) Luo with the Food Quality Laboratory, both in Beltsville, Maryland, evaluated a diverse collection of peppers for attributes that prolong the of fresh-cut pepper.

"Extensive genetic diversity is present in the Capsicum gene pool, which includes cultivated peppers," states Stommel. "This diversity has been utilized to improve pepper , fruit quality, and yield."

The fresh-cut fruit and vegetable industry has expanded rapidly during the past decade due to the convenience and nutrition that fresh-cut produce offers to consumers.

To help producers respond to the increased demand, the team identified varieties that were resistant to deterioration over 14 days of cold storage. "The results provide opportunities for plant breeders to incorporate attributes that contribute to fresh-cut quality into elite varieties that will benefit the food industry and consumers," Stommel says.

It is important to note that the very action of cutting fresh produce results in damage to plant tissues, increases respiration, and shortens postharvest shelf life. The loss of fluid from tissues is closely related to the quality and shelf life of fresh-cut produce. This leakage is indicative of cell damage and is responsible for the cascade of adverse changes in fresh-cut product color, texture, flavor, and microbial growth.

The team looked at 50 pepper varieties obtained commercially and from the ARS collection—sweet bell, large elongated peppers, jalapeno, and serrano—to find those that can stand up to prolonged cold storage. Fresh-cut sweet bell and elongated peppers exhibited signs of deterioration, such as fluid leakage, after 10 to 14 days of storage, whereas jalapeno and serrano peppers didn't lose fluids until 14 days of storage.

"We identified some peppers of each type that showed exceptional maintenance of fluid beyond 14 days, meaning the peppers stay firm and don't exhibit tissue breakdown," Stommel says. "These results demonstrate that extensive genetic variation exists in , which can lead to improved fresh quality via traditional breeding."

Lettuce, the base of salads everywhere, is also being targeted for improvement. Plant geneticists Ryan Hayes and Ivan Simko in the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, California, and Luo in Beltsville found several gene markers that will allow lettuce breeders to confer a longer shelf life on salad-cut lettuce. "Lettuce with a gene that results in rapid decay becomes unusable in 1 to 2 weeks," Hayes says. "By contrast, lettuce with a slow-decay gene lasted 1 month or more. This would be greatly beneficial to growers, packers, processors, and consumers."

Explore further: 16 new lettuce breeding lines from ARS

Related Stories

16 new lettuce breeding lines from ARS

May 15, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in California have developed 16 new lettuce breeding lines. Lettuce production in the United States is concentrated mostly in California and Arizona, where it is grown year-round. ...

Study reveals genetic diversity of genes in peppers

February 15, 2013

From the small, spicy Thai chiles to the portly, mild bell pepper, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have developed a "family tree" of sorts for peppers and characterized the diversity of genes found in ...

Ornamentals to Brighten the Fall Garden Palette

October 2, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With “trick-or-treaters” coming soon, imagine two spirited new pepper varieties making an appearance in your neighborhood as well. The new pepper cultivars have been released by the Agricultural Research ...

Best basil varieties for hydroponic greenhouse production

December 21, 2015

As the popularity of fresh culinary herbs increases, growers are looking to year-round production methods to supply distributors and local consumers. In colder climates, culinary herb growers rely on controlled indoor environments ...

Eat spicy, live longer? Study says yes

September 18, 2015

Like a fiery finish to dinner? Then you'll be glad to know that a recent study suggests people who eat hot, spicy foods regularly may live longer.

PhD student grows bell pepper with a hint of chilli

May 3, 2012

Martijn Eggink is cultivating a new bell pepper variety with an exotic flavour. This is the basis for his PhD research at Wageningen UR, in which he will correlate the flavour of the bell pepper to sugars, acids and aroma ...

Recommended for you

Atlas of the RNA universe takes shape

December 7, 2016

As the floor plan of the living world, DNA guides the composition of animals ranging from unicellular organisms to humans. DNA not only helps shepherd every organism from birth through death, it also plays an essential role ...

Gene "bookmarking" regulates the fate of stem cells

December 7, 2016

A protein that stays attached on chromosomes during cell division plays a critical role in determining the type of cell that stem cells can become. The discovery, made by EPFL scientists, has significant implications for ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.