Microbial Spoilage Of Fresh Vegetables

a. General. Since vegetables are harvested from or near the soil, they are subjected to a mixed flora of soil, as well as airborne microorganisms. In general, the pH of vegetables is near neutrality, so that bacteria, as well as fungi, cause deterioration.

b. Celery. Celery plants are infected by strains of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, which produce a pink rot at the base of the plant. The affected tissue is water soaked and soft, and the light-brown lesions have a pinkish-brown border.

c. Cole Crops. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower (cole crops of the crucifer family) are affected by Rhizopus soft rot. This fungus dissolves the infected tissue, rendering it mushy. The dead, light brown tissue is often covered by coarse, stringy mycelium that may bear masses of white to black clusters of spores.

d. Lettuce. There are several conditions that affect lettuce.

(1) Bacterial soft rot. Slime aptly describes this condition. It is caused by various species of bacteria. When the rot starts at or near the midrib, the first signs are small, yellowish-tan to rusty colored flecks or spots that enlarge and coalesce. As the disease spreads, the entire head may become a slippery brown mass.

(2) Downy mildew. Initially, the lesions tend to be small and confined to the upper surface of wrapper leaves. As the areas enlarge, they turn from light green or yellowish to brown and become soft.

(3) Watery soft rot. This rot occurs on the lower part of heads. The tissue is water soaked and light or pinkish brown. A white, cottony mold spreads over the decayed tissue, and the head eventually becomes a watery mass.

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