Appetizers
August 18, 2010
Improving fruit, veggie flavor the focus of new UC Davis study

KG FAIR FARM MARKET 3.JPGUC Davis scientists have received a nearly $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the flavor quality of fruits and vegetables and increase produce consumption.

Beth Mitcham, who directs the university's Postharvest Technology Center, and a team of researchers are partnering with the University of Florida to study ways post-harvest handling of produce can improve its flavor, the California Farm Bureau Federation announced today.

Getting produce from field to market in a condition shoppers will buy is can be challenging for growers, packers and shippers and impacts consumption.

"Experience shows produce buyers rarely reject produce because it's under-ripe," Mitcham stated in a UC Davis news release. "But they will reject it if there's any bruising or decay."

But harvesting produce before it's ripe means the flavor hasn't had a chance to reach its full potential, which also can impact consumption, especially by children.

"And if the food doesn't taste good, they aren't going to eat it," she said.

The research will examine each step in the post-harvest chain, including whether the ripening process can be slowed to allow late picking, how flavor can be enhanced or inhibited during shipping and storing and whether riper produce during post-harvest handling affects food safety risk, the release states.

Mitcham and Jeff Brecht, a University of Florida post-harvest physiologist, are leading the team of nearly 30 experts from both universities. More than 25 produce industry stakeholders also are participating in the research.

Sacramento Bee file photo by Kevin German.

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