Melons Treated for Longer Market Life Pass
Taste Test By Ben
December 8, 2000
Honeydew aficionados gave a higher thumbs-up to fresh, ripe
honeydew melons if they were dunked whole into a calcium solution before going
into commercial storage for up to 3 weeks. Agricultural Research Service consumer
preference panelists evaluated cut melon cubes for appearance, texture and
About three years ago, scientists at the ARS
Subtropical Agricultural Research
Center in Weslaco, Texas, and the Childrens Nutrition Research
Center in Houston began researching the calcium treatment as a way to
lengthen the marketing shelf life of the melons. Because the shelf life of ripe
melons is usually less than 12 days, the treatment may help industry provide
nutritious vine-ripened melons in greater quantities to distant markets.
Even before the latest findings, growers and melon marketers
were taking interest in the treatment to prolong shelf life and maintain
quality. Now Albion Laboratories,
Inc., of Clearfield, Utah, a manufacturer and exporter of dietary
supplements, vitamins and minerals, is planning to expand production of amino
acid-calcium chelate to help meet new worldwide demand for melons. The company
has entered into a one-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with
ARS to study treatments of honeydews and cantaloupes still on the vine as a
supplement or alternative to postharvest treatments.
From the outset, the ARS scientists have known that, just as
people need calcium for strong bones, melon rind tissue needs calcium to
maintain firmness that protects against spoilage. Laboratory and greenhouse
experiments would show the right amount of calcium solution needed to protect
and not injure the rind. The research now includes field-grown melons, which
tend to have thicker rinds.
Per-capita melon consumption in the U.S. reached new highs in
the 1990's, thanks largely to sweeter, more nutritious varieties. Now the
calcium treatment may further boost melon consumption by paving the way for
extensive domestic and export marketing of vine-ripened fruit.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Scientific contact: Gene E. Lester, ARS Crop Quality and
Fruit Insect Research Unit, Weslaco, Texas; phone (956) 447-6322, fax (956)