Nectarines are often thought to be a cross between a peach and a plum; however that is not the case. In fact, a nectarine is a cultivar of a peach that is bred for less fuzz and more firmness. There is a recessive allele in nectarines that causes the smoother skin. Seeds with the dominant allele produce the fuzzier peaches. Both fruits ripen quickly and bruise easily, making it imperative to use the best methods for cooling nectarines after harvest.
General Facts About Nectarines
Nectarines have been domesticated for more than 4.000 years, likely originating in China. They are a good source of vitamins A and C and are often cooked into desserts, jams and conserves. While peaches are closely associated with the eastern coast of the United States, more than 95% of nectarines are grown in California. Nectarines are somewhat tarter than peaches but are typically used in many of the same circumstances in which one might use a peach.
Information About Cooling and Storing Nectarines
Like their brother, the peach, nectarines are a delicate fruit with thin skin and soft flesh. As a result, they bruise easily and are difficult to store. It’s important to pick them at the right time so that they are ripe enough to taste delicious but not so ripe as to break apart during cooling or storage. To ensure every last fruit makes it to the consumer, the following factors must be considered:
Temperature – Nectarines will keep developing as long as the temperature is warm, so cooling immediately is necessary to stave off ripening of the fruit. They should be cooled and stored at around 31°F.
Handling – Nectarines cannot be tossed, dropped or loosely stored. They must be handled delicately to ensure the fruit does not bruise and begin releasing ethylene that might damage other fruit.
Shelf Life – Nectarines have a shelf life of 2-4 weeks, which is somewhat short compared with other fruits. The more efficiently they’re cooled after picking, the more likely they are to last on the longer end of this spectrum. Nectarines can be treated and canned which will significantly increase shelf life and is a great way to store fruit that won’t be eaten in time to remain fresh.
Relative Humidity – The flesh of a nectarine is juicy and requires high humidity of 90% or above to maintain the moisture of the fruit and prevent shriveling.
Methods of Cooling Nectarines
Nectarines cannot be simply refrigerated after harvest, since this will not lower their temperature as quickly as necessary to effectively slow ripening. Field heat must be removed from the fruit in the first 24 hours after picking to obtain the best output from the crop. To rapidly reduce the temperature of the fruit, consider the following effective methods of cooling nectarines after harvest:
Hydrocooling – This method of cooling produce involves submerging it in cold water or under a constant stream of running water. Hydrocooling is fast at reducing temperature and also helps to aid in cleaning the fruit. It’s most effective when used in conjunction with other cooling methods, since fruit should not sit in water for an extended period of time.
Forced-Air Cooling – This cooling technique is especially effective when used directly after hydrocooling. Forced-air cooling places the nectarines in a refrigerated area and adds the effect of moving the cooled air by using fans. This method surrounds the fruit with constantly cool air to quickly reduce temperatures and prepare the nectarines for packing.
Semco knows how important each harvest is during the growing season and how hard growers work to obtain the perfect fruit. In order to keep that fruit its freshest, it’s wise to consider a custom cooling system built with the right specifications for nectarines. Semco offers designs created for precise needs to offer the best methods for cooling nectarines after harvest, and storing them until delivery.