Harvest & Postharvest
Pomegranate ripeness is determined according to titratable acidity and extracted juice color measurements. Fruit is hand harvested and workers must wear protective clothing during harvest to protect against the abundant thorns found among the branches. It is also important to be very careful when handling fruit because pomegranates are highly susceptible to damage (Kader 2006, Özgüven 2012). During harvest fruit should be clipped (not pulled off the tree) to prevent open wounds susceptible to infection. Fruit should be clipped close to eliminate stems that could damage other fruit in the bin (Morton 1987).
After harvest, the fruit are sorted into three categories:
- Severe defects (those with no decay will go to juicing)
- Moderate defects (used for aril extraction)
- None to minor defects (sold as whole fruit to the fresh market).
The fruit undergo washing, drying, fungicide application, waxing and packaging prior to shipment or storage. Pomegranate fruit is cold-sensitive and the recommended storage temperature for the Wonderful cultivar is 7°C. Pomegranates can be stored for 3 to 4 months in cold storage, or for 4 to 6 months under controlled atmosphere conditions of 5% oxygen and 15% carbon dioxide. Throughout storage, eating quality changes as the rind thins and becomes leathery in texture (Özgüven et al. 2012). Fruit that will undergo aril extraction (to be sold as ready-to-eat arils) can be stored for 3 months in cold storage or 5 months under the specific controlled atmosphere conditions (with 85% nitrogen) without affecting the aril sensory characteristics (Kader 2006).