Standard Tomatoes: Minimum harvest maturity (Mature Green 2) is defined by internal fruit structure indices. Seeds are fully developed and are not cut upon slicing the fruit. Gel formation is advanced in at least one locule and jellylike material is forming in other locules.
ESL* Tomatoes: Off-vine ripening is severely affected if fruit are harvested at the MG2 stage. Minimum harvest maturity is better defined as equivalent to ripeness class Pink (USDA Color Stage 4 more than 30 percent but no more than 60 percent of the fruit surface, overall, shows a pink-red color.)
* Extended Shelf-Life trait is due, in part, to either the presence of the rin or norgene.
Standard tomato quality is primarily based on uniform shape and freedom from growth or handling defects. Size is not a factor of grade quality but may strongly influence commercial quality expectations.
Shape – well formed for type (round, globe, flattened globe, roma)
Color – Uniform color (orange-red to deep red; light yellow). No green shoulders.
Appearance – Smooth and small blossom-end scar and stem-end scar. Absence of growth cracks, catfacing, zippering, sunscald, insect injury, and mechanical injury or bruises.
Firmness – Yields to firm hand pressure. Not soft and easily deformed due to an overripe condition.
U.S. grades are No. 1, Combination, No. 2, and No. 3. Distinction among grades is based predominantly on external appearances, bruising and firmness.
Greenhouse grown tomatoes are graded as U.S. No. 1 or No. 2 only.
Mature Green 12.5 – 15°C (55 – 60°F)
Light Red (USDAColor Stage 5) 10 – 12.5°C (50 – 55°F)
Firm-ripe (USDA Color Stage 6) 7 – 10°C (44 – 50°F) for 3-5 days
Mature-green tomatoes can be stored up to 14 days prior to ripening at 12.5°C (55°F) without significant reduction of sensory quality and color development. Decay is likely to increase following storage beyond two weeks, at this temperature. Typically 8-10 days of shelflife are attainable within the optimum temperature range after reaching the Firm-ripe stage. Short term storage or transit temperatures below this range are used by some in the trade but will result in chilling injury after several days. Extended storage with controlled atmosphere has been demonstrated. (See Responses to CA)
18° -21°C (65 – 70°F); 90-95% R.H. for standard ripening 14° -16°C (57- 61°F) for slow ripening (i.e. in transit)
For more details on ripening conditions see Ripening.
Tomatoes are chilling sensitive at temperatures below 10°C (50°F) if held for longer than 2 weeks or at 5°C (41°F) for longer than 6-8 days. Consequences of chilling injury are failure to ripen and develop full color and flavor, irregular (blotchy) color development, premature softening, surface pitting, browning of seeds, and increased decay (especially Black mold caused by Alternaria spp.). Chilling injury is cumulative and may be initiated in the field prior to harvest.
Optimum Relative Humidity
90-95%; High relative humidity is essential to maximize postharvest quality and prevent water loss (desiccation). Extended periods of higher humidity or condensation may encourage the growth of stem-scar and surface molds.
Rates of Respiration
ml CO2/ kg·hr Mature-green Ripening
To calculate heat production, multiply ml CO2/ kg·hr by 440 to get BTU/ton/day or by 122 to get kcal/metric ton /day.
NR– not recommended for more than a few days due to chilling injury
Rates of Ethylene Production
1.2 – 1.5µl / kg·hr at 10°C (50°F)
4.3 – 4.9µl / kg·hr at 20°C (68°F)
Responses to Ethylene
Tomatoes are sensitive to exogenous ethylene and exposure of mature-green fruit to ethylene will initiate ripening. Ripening tomatoes produce ethylene at a moderate rate and co-storage or shipment with sensitive commodities, such as lettuce and cucumbers, should be avoided.
Faster ripening results from higher temperatures between 12.5 -25°C (55-77°F); 90-95% R.H.; 100 ppm ethylene. Good air circulation must be maintained to ensure temperature uniformity within the ripening room and to prevent the accumulation of CO2. CO2 (above 1%) retards the action of ethylene in stimulating ripening.
The optimum ripening temperature to ensure sensory and nutritive quality is 20°C (68°F).Color development is optimal and retention of vitamin C content is highest at this ripening temperature. Tomatoes allowed to ripen off-the-vine above 25°C (77°F) will develop a more yellow and less red color and will be softer.
Ethylene treatment typically extends for 24-72 hours. A second treatment period may follow repacking if immature green fruit were included in the harvest.
Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)
Controlled atmosphere storage or shipping offer a moderate level of benefit. Low O2 levels (3-5%) delay ripening and the development of surface and stem-scar molds without severely impacting sensory quality for most consumers. Storage times of up to 7 weeks have been reported for tomatoes using a combination of 4% O2, 2% CO2, and 5% CO. More typically, 3% O2 and 0-3% CO2 are used to maintain acceptable quality for up to 6 weeks prior to ripening. Elevated CO2above 3-5 % is not tolerated by most cultivars and will cause injury. Low O2( 1%) will cause off-flavors, objectionable odors, and other condition defects, such as internal browning.
Cold storage for fruit and veg is a particularly tricky subject as there are many factors, such as age and origin, which can affect how fresh produce should be stored. This guide looks at why you should be using cold storage to stock and distribute your fresh produce and the most important factors to consider when using cold storage for fruit and veg.