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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

Green olives. Size and color (even, pale green with a minimum of whitish spots (lenticels) through a straw color. An olive is considered mature if it exudes a characteristic white juice when squeezed.

Black olives. Color, removal force; fruits reach this stage about 3-4 months after the green stage.

Quality Indices

Green olives. Color; freedom from mechanical damage, shrivelling, surface blemishes, scale and other insect injury, and decay. These olives are processed according to the California black-ripe style or Spanish green style canned olives.

Black olives. Color, freedom from defects, oil content (12 to 25% depending on cultivar). These are processed (Greek or Italian style) or used for oil extraction.

Maturity & Quality Photos

Title: Ripeness Stages

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere

Optimum Temperature

5-7.5°C (41-45.5°F); temperatures below 5°C (41°F) cause chilling injury of fresh olives.

Optimum Relative Humidity


Rates of Respiration

Temperature 5°C (41°F) 7.5°C (45.5°F) 10°C (50°F) 20°C (68°F)
Range (ml CO2/kg·hr) 5-10 8-12 12-16 20-40

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

Less than 0.1 (green olives) or 0.5 (black olives) µl ethylene/kg·hr at 20°C (68°F).

Responses to Ethylene

Olives produce very little ethylene but are moderately sensitive to ethylene action above 1 ppm (loss of green color and flesh firmness).

Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)

  • Optimum CA: 2-3% O2+ 0-1% CO2; delays senescence and softening for up to 12 weeks at 5°C (41°F) or 9 weeks at 7.5°C (45.5°F)
  • O2 below 2% can cause off-flavors
  • CO2 greater than 5% may increase the severity of chilling injury if olives are kept below 7.5°C (45.5°F)

Note: The above information is for fresh green olives; fresh black olives should be processed as soon after harvest as possible.

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere Photos

Title: CA Effects

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 

Title: CO2 Injury

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 

Title: SO2 Injury

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 


Physiological and Physical Disorders

Chilling injury (CI). CI can be a major cause of deterioration if fresh olives are stored before processing for longer than 2 weeks at 0°C (32°F), 5 weeks at 2°C (36°F), or 6 weeks at 3°C (38°F). Symptoms include internal browning that begins in the flesh around the pit and radiates outward toward the skin as time progresses. Skin browning indicates an advanced state and/ or greater CI severity. The order of cultivar susceptibility to CI is Sevillano (most susceptible) - Ascolano - Manzanillo - Mission (least susceptible).

Nailhead. This disorder is characterized by surface pitting and spotting. It results from the death and collapse of epidermal cells, which create air pockets underneath the fruit skin. Symptoms are observed on olives kept at 10°C (50°F) for 6 weeks or longer or 7.5°C (45.5°F) for 12 weeks or longer.

Carbon dioxide injury. Symptoms (internal browning and increased decay incidence and severity) result from exposure to more than 5% CO2 for longer than 4 weeks. 

Pathological Disorders

Postharvest diseases occur if the olives have been chilled (exposed to temperatures below 5°C=41°F), mechanically damaged, not cooled promptly to the optimum temperature range of 5 to 7.5°C (41 to 45.5°F), or exposed to undesirable atmospheres (above 5% CO2 and/or below 2% O2).

Disorders Photos

Title: Chilling Injury of 4 Cultivars(1)

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 

Title: Temperature & Chilling Injury (2)

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 


August 1996

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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