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Field heat should be removed from fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers as quickly as possible after harvest. Each commodity should be maintained at its lowest safe temperature.
The most important key to quality maintenance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers is careful handling; Tender Loving Care! Symptoms of injuries incurred during harvesting, handling, grading, and packaging usually are not evident until the products reach retail or consumer levels; too late to do anything about your quality image. Bruises and other mechanical damage not only detract from the appearance of the product, but are good avenues of entrance for decay organisms.
At times, it is necessary to transport or store different commodities together. In such mixed loads, it is very important to combine only those commodities that are compatible with respect to their requirements for: Temperature, Relative humidity, Atmosphere; oxygen and carbon dioxide, Protection from odors, Protection from physiologically active gases, such as ethylene.
Sweetpotato seed roots should be pre-sprouted for maximum transplant production. Presprouting is the process by which sweetpotato seed stock is conditioned to produce sprouts (transplants) prior to bedding. Some refer to this as "waking up" the sweetpotatoes after they have been asleep in storage during the winter. This reinforces the often overlooked fact that sweetpotatoes are still alive.
This publication lists the references used in parts 1-4 of the Postharvest Handling and Cooling of Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, and Flowers for Small Farms series.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers must be in excellent condition and have excellent quality if maximum shelf life is desired. The best possible quality of any commodity exists at the moment of harvest. From that point on, quality cannot be improved, only maintained. Remember that shelf life begins at harvest.