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Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Marita Cantwell
Department of Vegetable Crops, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

Maturity Indices

Green Peppers: fruit size, firmness, color
Colored Peppers: minimum 50% coloration

Quality Indices

  • Uniform shape, size and color typical of variety
  • Firmness
  • Freedom from defects such as cracks, decay, sunburn

Optimum Temperature

Peppers should be cooled as soon as possible to reduce water loss. Peppers stored above 7.5°C (45°F) suffer more water loss and shrivel. Storage at 7.5°C (45°F) is best for maximum shelf-life (3-5 weeks); peppers can be stored at 5°C (41°F) for 2 weeks, and although this reduces water loss, chilling injury will begin to appear after that period. Symptoms of chilling injury include pitting, decay, discoloration of the seed cavity, softening without water loss. Ripe or colored peppers are less chilling sensitive than green peppers.

Optimum Relative

> 95%; firmness of peppers is directly related to water loss

Rates of Respiration

Temperature 5°C(41°F) 10°C(50°F) 20°C(68°F)
ml CO2/kg·hr 3-4 5-8 18-20

To calcualte heat production multiply ml CO2/kg·hr by 440 to get BTU/ton/ day or by 122 to get kcal/metric ton/day.

Rates of Ethylene Production

Bell peppers are nonclimacteric in behaviour and produce very low levels of ethylene: 0.1-0.2 µl/kg·hr at 10°-20°C (50°-68°F).

Responses to Ethylene

Bell Peppers respond very little to ethylene; to accelerate ripening or color change, holding partially colored peppers at warm temperatures of 20-25°C (68-77°F) with high humidity (>95%) is most effective.

Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)

Peppers generally do not respond well to CA. Low Oatmospheres (2-5% O2) alone have little effect on quality and high CO2 atmospheres (>5%) can damage peppers (pitting, discoloration, softening) especially if they are stored below 10°C (50°F). Atmospheres of 3% O2+ 5% CO2were more beneficial for red than green peppers stored at 5°C (41°F) to 10°C (50°F) for 3-4 weeks.

Physiological Disorders

Blossom end rot.
this disorder occurs as a slight discoloration or a severe dark sunken lesion at the blossom end; it is caused by temporary insufficiencies of water and calcium and may occur under high temperature conditions when the peppers are rapidly growing.

Pepper speck.
 this disorder appears as spot-like lesions that penetrate the fruit wall; cause is unknown; some varieties are more susceptible than others.

Chilling injury.
symptoms of chilling injury include surface pitting, water-soaked areas, decay (especially Alternaria), and discoloration of the seed cavity.

Pathological Disorders

On California-grown bell peppers, the most common decay organisms are Botrytis, Alternaria, and soft rots of fungal and bacterial origin.

Botrytis or Grey mold decay.
this is a common decay-causing organism on peppers; field sanitation and prevention of wounds on the fruit help reduce its incidence. Botrytis will grow well at the recommended storage temperatures. High CO2levels (>10%) which can control Botrytis damage peppers. Hot water dips of peppers can effectively control botrytis rot ( 55°C [130°F] water for 4 minutes) without causing fruit injury.

Alternaria rot.
the presence of black Altenaria rot, especially on the stem end of the pepper is a symptom of chilling injury; best control measure is to store at 7.2°C (45°F)

Bacterial Soft Rot.
soft rotting areas can be caused by several bacteria which attack damaged tissue; soft rots can also common on washed or hydrocooled peppers where water sanitation was deficient

Other Common Postharvest Defects

Mechanical damage (crushing, stem punctures, cracks, etc.) is very common on peppers; physical injury not only detracts from the visual quality of the peppers but also causes increased weight loss and decay.

Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center
Department of Pomology
University of California
One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616-8683

Send comments and questions to Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center
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Produce/ProduceFacts/Veg/pepper.html updated July 7, 2000

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