a) Variety selection, e.g. virus free varieties
- Table versus processing varieties
b) Improved crop care will result in the extended reaping life of crops
Tomato is ready for harvesting 73 – 75 days from planting, depending on the variety.
The degree of maturity will depend on the market requirement, i.e. cherry ripe for processing, fully ripe, firm, for hotels and fast food outlets, pink to ripe for green grocers and supermarket, and mature and green for extended shelf life.
HOW TO REAP
Tomatoes should be reaped with calyx in tact. When calyx is removed, the fruit can be infected easily by pathogens, thereby reducing the quality and shelf life of the product.
Reap in the cool of the day, so as to minimize field heat.
· Light coloured ventilated field crates are ideal, with a carrying capacity of 35lbs,
i.e. 2 – 3 layers of fruits interpacked with shredded paper, so as to prevent squeezing (compression) damage.
· Light coloured water buckets can also be used to remove fruits from field to pack house.
Store in shaded areas, i.e. under a tree, on a verandah, in a hut, or using a 10 x 10 tarpaulin, attached to four (4) posts.
SELECTING AND GRADING
· Remove fruits with growth cracks (usually lead to break down and spoilage)
· Removal of insect damage, discouloured or fruits with fungus
· Fruits are then graded by size for market segmentation, e.g. extra large for fast food outlets, medium for hotel and supermarkets, and small for supermarket.
Light coloured plastic ventilated crates are preferred. Crates should not be over packed but should have adequate space at the top, which will allow proper storage in vehicle. Retail packaging in plastic containers of 0.4 – 1 kg is desirable and should be stored in display refrigerators of 13-15°C or 50-55°F.
Refrigerated trucks are preferred but where this is not available an opened body truck covered with light coloured tarpaulin can be used. Opened body vehicle should travel in the cool of the day so as to prevent the built up of field heat. The vehicle should have enough space so as to provide proper storage and adequate ventilation.
Special care should be taken when driving on bad roads so as to minimize bruising and compression damage.
Tomato can be stored at ambient temperature for a period of up to 7 days.
For longer period tomato can be stored at a temperature of 13- 15°C or 51-55°F and a relative humidity of 80-85 %