Harvest and Handling
Approximate eggplant yield is between 190 and 250 cwt per acre (Ivors 2010). Pepper harvest ranges from 10 to 40 days after flowering depending on the variety. Generally, fruit are harvested immature before seeds begin to significantly enlarge and harden. High quality fruit is full size, firm, and glossy. Eggplant fruits become pithy and bitter as they reach an over mature condition.
Pepper yields vary widely depending on plant spacing, production methods (use of plastics), and type of pepper. Average pepper yield ranges from 100 to 300 cwt/acre (Ngouajio 2009). Bell peppers are hand harvested by cutting from the plant leaving a one inch stem on the fruit, or carefully twisting the fruit to break the stem. Peppers may be harvested at the immature (green) stage or after the mature color develops. Pepper harvest starts about 30 days after flowering (mature green) and it takes an additional 10 to 20 days before fruits are fully colored.
An acre of tomato plants yields an average of 200 cwt/ acre (1 cwt is equivalent to 100 lb.); however use of plasticulture techniques such as plastic mulch and row covers has been reported to increase yields up to 600 cwt/acre (Hemphill 2010). Tomatoes may be harvested at the mature green stage to the fully ripe stage depending on transport logistics and marketing requirements. Tomatoes closer to the fully ripe stage are more susceptible to surface and internal damage during handling; however, fully ripe tomatoes tend to have a superior flavor expected for direct market sales.
Post-harvest handling is as important as the growing of the crop. A high quality, mature, fresh pepper is firm, bright, and has a fresh, green calyx. Fruit should be cooled quickly after harvest. The best time to harvest is in the early morning when temperatures are cool and plants are well hydrated.
Store sweet peppers between 45 to 55°F, and 90 to 95% humidity. Peppers are sensitive to chilling injury and disease development below 45°F. Temperatures above 55°F encourage ripening and spread of bacterial soft rot. Pre-packaging peppers in plastic films helps retain moisture and can prolong the storage life up to a week longer than non-packaged peppers.
Store eggplant between 45 to 55°F, and 90 to 95% humidity. Eggplants are sensitive to chilling injury below 50°F; however, sensitivity varies with variety, maturity, and size of fruit. Eggplant quality degrades quickly after 7 to 10 days of storage.
Store mature green tomatoes at 55 to 60°F, and ripe fruit at 45 to 50°F. Firm ripe fruit can be stored 3 to 5 days. Relative humidity should be kept at 90 to 95% to maintain quality and limit water loss. Tomatoes are sensitive to chilling injury below 50°F if held longer than two weeks, and below 41°F if held longer than 6 to 8 days. Chilling injury may result in failure to ripen evenly and cause premature softening and decay. For even ripening, keep temperatures at 65 to 70°F with 90 to 95% relative humidity. For slower ripening (in transit) keep temperatures at 57 to 61°F.
For further detail on proper storage, handling and ripening techniques, refer to the publication Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality, available through the UC Davis California (see links below).