Effect of harvest maturity stage on the sensory quality of ‘Palsteyn’ apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) after cold storage
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Fresh apricots (Prunus armeniaca L.) are in high demand, but are available for only a short period during the Spring and the beginning of the Summer.There is no information on the correct harvest maturity stage that should be chosen to ensure a long post-harvest life and high sensory quality. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of maturity stage at harvest on the sensory quality of ‘Palsteyn’ apricots after 14, 28, or 42 d in cold storage. Sourness, flavour, and acceptability showed major changes during cold storage. Ripe fruit (orange-yellow skin colour) showed the highest acceptability, as assessed by a “mini-consumer test” (i.e., an untrained panel; n = 36). Fruit harvested at an intermediate stage of maturity (light yellow skin colour) reached an average acceptability, while unripe fruit (greenish skin colour) were not acceptable. After 28 d of cold storage, fruits were still acceptable; but, after 42 d, fruits reached the “dislike” zone. On a principal component analysis, acceptability was shown to be positively associated with sweetness, flavour, juiciness, and aroma, and negatively associated with sourness. After 28 d and 42 d of cold storage, unripe fruit appeared to have low acceptability and quality attributes. ‘Palsteyn’ apricot harvested with an orangeyellow skin colour, as the least ripe fruits, showed that they could reach high sensory quality standards and were able to withstand long periods of cold storage.