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Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality


Carlos H. Crisosto, Elizabeth J. Mitcham, and Adel A. Kader

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality
Maturity Indices

Fresh market figs must be harvested when almost fully ripe to be of good eating quality. Skin color and flesh firmness are dependable maturity and ripeness indices. ‘Black Mission’ figs should be light to dark purple rather than black and should yield to slight pressure. ‘Calimyrna’ figs should be yellowish-white to light yellow and firm.

Quality Indices

Fresh figs’ skin color and flesh firmness are related to their quality and postharvest-life. Flavor is influenced by stage of ripeness and overripe figs can become undesirable due to fermentative products. Other quality indices include absence of defects (such as bird-peck, sunburn, scab, skin break, and stem shrivel), insects, and decay.

Maturity & Quality Photos

Title: Brown Turkey Fig Maturity

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Quality

Photo Credit: Adel Kader, UC Davis

Title: Sierra Fig Maturity

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere
Optimum Temperature

-1°C to 0°C (30°F to 32°F)

Expedited forced-air cooling to 0°C (32°F) is strongly recommended.

Optimum Relative Humidity


Rates of Respiration Production
Temperature ml CO2/kg·hr
°C °F  
0 32 2-4
5 41 5-8
10 50 9-12
20 68 20-30

To calculate heat production, multiply ml CO2/kg·hr by 440 to get BTU/ton/day or by 122 to get kcal/metric ton /day.

Rates of Ethylene Production
Temperature 0°C (32°F) 5°C (41°F) 10°C (50°F) 20°C (68°F)
ul C2H4/kg·hr 0.4-0.8 0.8-1.5 1.5-3.0 4.0-6.0
Responses to Ethylene

Figs are slightly sensitive to ethylene action on stimulating softening and decay severity, especially if kept at 5°C (41°F) or higher temperatures.

Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)

CA combinations of 5-10% oxygen and 15-20% carbon dioxide are effective in decay control, firmness retention, and reduction of respiration and ethylene production rates. Postharvest-life at optimum temperature and relative humidity depends upon cultivar and ripeness stage at harvest and ranges from 1 to 2 weeks in air and from 3 to 4 weeks in CA for California-grown ‘Black Mission’ and ‘Calimyrna" figs.

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere Photos

Title: CO2 Effect on Black Mission

Photo Credit: Adel Kader, UC Davis

Title: CO2 Effect on Calymirna

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis

Title: Temperature and CA Effects on Brown Turkey Figs 

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Temperature and CA Effects on Sierra Figs

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Physiological and Physical Disorders

CA-related disorders. Extended storage in CA can result in loss of characteristic flavor. Figs exposed to less than 2% oxygen and/or more than 25% carbon dioxide develop off-flavors due to fermentative metabolism.

Pathological Disorders

Alternaria rot. Caused by Alternaria tenuis, appears as small, round, brown-to-black spots over the fruit surface. Any cracks on the skin make the fruit more susceptible to the rot.

Black mold rot. Caused by Aspergillus niger, appears as dark or yellowish spots in the flesh with no external symptoms. At advanced stages the skin and flesh turn slightly pink color and white mycelia with black spore masses follow.

Endosepsis (soft rot). Caused by Fusarium moniliforms, appears in the cavity of the fig making the pulp soft, watery and brown with sometimes an offensive odor.

Souring. Caused by various yeasts and bacteria, is a preharvest problem resulting from yeasts and bacteria carried into the figs by insects, especially vinegar flies, resulting in smells of alcohol or acetic acid.

Control of Postharvest Diseases

  • Control of orchard insects to reduce fruit damage and transmission of fungi
  • Effective control of preharvest diseases
  • Strict sanitation of picking and transporting containers
  • Careful handling to minimize abrasions, cracks, and other physical damage
  • Do not pick figs for fresh market from the ground
  • Prompt cooling to 0°C (32°F) and maintaining the cold chain all the way to the consumer

Disorders Photos

Title: Decay Follows Physical Damage

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis


August 1998

Use of Materials

The UC Postharvest Technology Center grants users permission to download textual pages (including PDF files) from this World Wide Web site for personal use or to reproduce them for educational purposes, but credit lines and copyright notices within the pages must not be removed or modified.

Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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