Quality of peppers is defined by several quality attributes. The most important are appearance, colour, texture and flavour. Appearance and colour are examples of quality attributes judged on the outside, whereas texture and flavour are internal quality parameters. The quality attributes are influenced by variety, pre-harvest factors, harvest practices and post-harvest handling. Determination of fruit quality provides an important indication of the remaining storage potential and shelf-life.
Optimal quality of peppers
Important quality characteristics of peppers are smooth and shiny skin, crispy texture, shape and uniform colour as well as a nicely cut stem. These characteristics depend on the variety, the season and the growing conditions. The basis for good pepper quality lies in the right harvest maturity. The colour of the peppers at harvest must be such that they can reach the final consumer fully ripe. In the meantime, diseases and disorders should be prevented as much as possible. For all varieties, the minimum requirements for good quality are: intact, healthy, clean, fresh in appearance, firm, practically free of pests, free from damage caused by pests affecting the flesh and free from foreign smell and / or taste.
Quality aspects of peppers
Different sizes of elongated sweet peppers. Photo by WUR
General appearanceEach pepper variety has his own characteristics such as size, shape, and colour. In all cases, the consumer will demand fresh-looking and attractive peppers. The fruit should be free of scars or excessive scuffing or other surface defects. The stem-end should be smooth and the fruit should look firm with no signs of bruising. Bell peppers have three or four lobes, while sweet elongated peppers have only one.
Different types of hot peppers have a different pungency. Photo by Julie Cloper/Shutterstock.com
FlavourImportant characteristics for the flavour of pepper are firmness and aroma. If we are dealing with hot peppers, a degree of pungency according to the variety must be respected. Whereas the sweet peppers don't have capsaicinoids. Peppers are a significant source of vitamin A and C.
Bell peppers of different colours. Photo by Hutch Photography/Shutterstock.com
Skin colourPeppers can have different skin colours. It will be influenced by variety, as well as by ripeness stage and growing conditions. Peppers must have sufficient colour development to be acceptable to the final consumer. A green bell pepper should still be green at the retail, whereas a coloured pepper, although harvested not fully coloured, should have reached their end coloration at retail.
Consumer cutting bell pepper. Photo by Pixel-shot/Shutterstock.com
Flesh texture and colourFlesh firmness, crispiness and juiciness all contribute to the consumer's final judgement. Loss of firmness is one of the most obvious texture changes. Peppers will soon start to show signs of shriveling as a result of water loss. Preventing water loss is an important attention point with peppers. Browning of flesh is another example which is undesirable and may be a result of bruising or of unfavourable storage conditions.
Pepper suffering from water loss. Photo from WUR
Disorders and diseasesGood quality peppers have no or only minor defects and free of diseases. The skin should be free of corking. Bruises or skin injuries reduce appearance and also provide access routes for pathogens that lead to decay. Disorders are not always visible from the outside. Cutting the fruit may reveal internal flesh breakdown, which may be due to a bacterial infection. Disorders and diseases can lead to significant post-harvest losses, depending on the season.