Extending the shelf life of fresh-cut lettuce and peppers is the aim of recent research by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.
 
Research published in AgResearch Magazine the reviews efforts by scientists at the USDA’s Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory and the Food Quality Laboratory to prolong the shelf life of fresh-cut peppers, according to a news release.
 
Plant geneticist and research leader John Stommel, at the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory, said in the release that researchers looked at 50 pepper varieties obtained commercially and from the USDA’s collection.
 
They found fresh-cut sweet bell peppers showed signs of deterioration after 10 to 14 days of storage, while jalapeno and serrano peppers didn’t lose fluids — leading to deterioration — until 14 days of storage, according to the releases.
 
“We identified some peppers of each type that showed exceptional maintenance of fluid beyond 14 days, meaning the peppers stay firm and don’t exhibit tissue breakdown,” Stommel said in the release. “These results demonstrate that extensive genetic variation exists in peppers, which can lead to improved fresh quality via traditional breeding.”
 
Prolonging the usable life of lettuce also is a goal of researchers, according to the release. USDA plant geneticists have found several gene markers that potentially could allow the shelf life of lettuce to be extended from current levels of only one to two weeks to as much as one month, according to the release.