The fruits are graded according to size, shape and colour before packing. Wilted, damaged or over-mature fruits should be discarded. The Bureau of Indian Standards has recommended three grades for brinjal (Hindi for eggplant): Super, Fancy and Commercial.
CRITERIA FOR GRADE DESIGNATION
The diversity of eggplant types being marketed has increased greatly in recent years. Standard (American) eggplant quality is primarily based on uniform egg to globular shape, firmness and a dark purple skin color. Additional quality indices are size, freedom from growth or handling defects, freedom from decay, and a fresh green calyx.
MATURITY FOR HARVEST
The fruits are normally picked when they have attained the desired size, but usually before they are fully sized. Certain consumers, mainly Indian, demand very small fruits, only about 60 mm to 100 mm in length. The specific market requirement thus determines cultivar selection and stage of picking. In any event, the fruits should be harvested before the skins harden.
The fruits are usually cut off, as hand pulling often results in damage to the fruits and the plants; this is not as important when small fruits are being harvested. The fruits wilt very easily if picked in the heat of the day; harvesting in the mornings only is recommended. Fruits are harvested with stalk at joints where they are attached to the branches. Picking two or three times a week is necessary. Notice than eggplants are maximum damaged during the monsoons.
Harvested fruits should also be removed to a cool, shady area as soon as possible, because they are subject to sunscald and wilting. They should be handled very carefully during harvesting, grading and packing, to obviate bruising and damage caused by the thorns present on the fruit-stems of most cultivars.
Fruits are sprinkled with water after harvesting to keep them fresh.
Graded fruits are normally packed into well-ventilated cartons or similar containers; packing into bags or pockets is not recommended, because the fruits are not sufficiently protected. The fruits are individually packed in tissue paper and arranged in available cartons for distance markets or export.
Eggplants are highly perishable - they wilt quickly and do not store well, even under optimum conditions. They must be marketed as rapidly as possible.
Fruits packed in polythene bags and kept at room temperature can stay fresh for a few days. At temperature 8-10ºC and 5% CO2 they can be stored for 4 weeks.
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