Does the maturity at harvest affect quality and sensory attributes of peaches and nectarines?
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Fruit quality has been described as a property that depends on many factors. Harvest time is one such factor, described as negatively affecting the fruit quality of peaches and nectarines when carried out at early stages of maturity. In order to assess this, fruit from peach cultivars ‘2B40’, ‘Elegant Lady’ and ‘Sweet September’, and nectarine cultivars ‘Antares’ and ‘5A29’ were harvested at three maturity levels, based on ground skin colour (M1 = green-yellow, M2 = pale yellow and M3 = yellow), and evaluated at harvest and after a ripening period. Evaluations included instrumental characterization, sensorial analysis and e-nose. Flesh firmness was the parameter that best segregated the three maturity levels. Sensorial attributes and acceptability did not show differences between stages of maturity, while e-nose data clustered M1, M2 and M3 into different groups. These results suggest that the maturity level at harvest, within the range evaluated in this research, does not affect the sensory quality of the product, in spite of the aroma assessed with an e-nose revealing differences among them.