Optimal Storage Conditions for Vegetables – Vegetable Crops Hotline

Optimal Storage Conditions for Vegetables

After harvest, storing vegetables in optimal conditions is important to ensure the whole season’s hard work has paid off. This article discusses the optimum storage conditions for tomato, pepper, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe and sweet corn.


Ideal storage conditions for tomatoes depend on the maturity stage of picking. If tomatoes are picked at mature green, store them in 66 to 70°F with 90 to 95% RH would encourage uniform ripening. Temperatures above 81°F reduce intensity of red color and reduce fruit shelf-life. Green tomatoes are chilling sensitive. If the temperature is below 55°F, fruit may develop chilling injury. Red tomatoes are safe to store at 50°F, however, flavor and aroma may be negatively affected compared to storing them at 55°F.


Optimum storage condition for peppers is 45 to 55°F with 90 to 95% RH. Temperatures lower than 45°F may cause chilling injury. Colored peppers are in general less chilling sensitive than green peppers. Storage temperatures higher than 55°F accelerate ripening, it should be avoided for green peppers. However, if partially colored fruit are harvested, store them at 68 to 77°F with RH >95% is effective to color peppers. Peppers are sensitive to ethylene. Avoid store peppers together with ethylene producing fruit such as ripening tomatoes and cantaloupes.


Ideal storage condition for cucumber is 50 to 54°F with RH >95%. Cucumbers are chilling sensitive, chilling injury can develop if fruit is stored below 50°F for more than 2 or 3 days. Storage temperature above 59°F can lead to rapid fruit yellowing and loss of quality. Greenhouse grown cucumbers that have very thin skins are very sensitive to water loss. If they are not shrink-wrapped, storing them in sealed bags can help ensure above 95% RH and prevent fruit water loss. Cucumbers are very sensitive to ethylene that accelerates yellowing and fruit decay. Avoid store cucumbers together with ethylene producing fruit such as ripening tomatoes and cantaloupes.


Although ideal storage temperature for watermelons is in the range of 50 to 59°F with approximately 90 % RH. Many watermelons are shipped in unrefrigerated trucks. Watermelons can develop chilling injury when stored below 50°F for more than a few days. The fruit is extremely sensitive to ethylene. Exposing to a low level of exogenous ethylene can cause fruit softening, fading of flesh color, and over-ripeness.


Cantaloupe should be cooled right after harvest to delay ripening and retain sugar content. The optimum storage temperature is 36 to 45°F with 95% RH. Full-slip melons are not chilling sensitive, they may be stored for 5 to 14 days at 32 to 36°F. Less mature melons may develop chilling injury when temperature <36°F.

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn loss sweetness rapidly if they are not cooled right away after harvest. If they remain in temperatures around 85°F, more than half of sugar in sweet corn can be converted to starch in a single day. To maintain quality, sweet corn should be cooled immediately after harvest, and stored in temperatures as close as possible to 32°F. Since it is critical to cool sweetcorn to a lower temperature than many vegetables, whenever possible, harvest sweet corn early in the morning when the pulp temperature is the lowest during the day. Sweet corn is not chilling sensitive, and exposure to exogenous ethylene normally is not a problem.



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