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Bean, Snap

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Marita Cantwell and Trevor Suslow

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Beans, Snap PDF

Maturity & Quality

Maturity Indices

Snap beans (yellow, green and purple types) are harvested when they are rapidly growing and developing. Harvest occurs about 8-10 days after flowering for typical mature snap beans. Beans should be harvested when the fruit is bright green, the pod is fleshy and seeds are small and green. After that period, seed development reduces quality and the pod becomes pithy and tough and looses green color.

Quality Indices

Beans should be well formed and straight, bright in color with a fresh appearance, and tender but firm. They should snap easily when bent. Leaves, stems, broken beans, blossom remains, insect damage should not be present. Decreased quality during postharvest handling is most often associated with water loss, chilling injury, and decay

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere

Optimum Temperature

5-7.5°C (41-45°F)

Very good quality can be maintained for a few days at temperatures below 5°C but chilling injury will be induced (see Physiological Disorders). Some chilling may occur even at the recommended storage temperature of 5°C after 7-8 days. At 5-7.5°C (41-45°F) a shelf-life of 8-12 days is expected.

Water loss is a common postharvest problem with green beans. About 5% weight loss is needed before shrivel and limpness are observed. After 10-12% weight loss, the beans are no longer marketable. The weight loss of mature green beans can be estimated from the equation: % weight loss per day = 0.754 x vapor pressure deficit. The VPD can be obtained from a psychrometric chart when temperature and relative humidity are measured. The rate of water loss of immature beans is higher than for mature beans.

Relative Humidity


Rates of Respiration

Temperature ml CO2>/kg·hr
°C (°F) Snap Beans Long Beans
0 (32) 10 20
5 (41) 17 23
10 (50) 29 46
15 (59) 46 101
20 (68) 65 110

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

Responses to Ethylene

Exposure to ethylene at usual storage temperatures causes loss of green pigment and increased browning. Concentrations above 0.1 ppm reduce green bean shelf-life by 30-50% at 5°C.

Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)

At recommended storage temperature, O2 concentrations of 2-5% reduce respiration rates. Snap beans tolerate and are benefited by CO2 concentrations between 3-10%. The main benefit is retention of color and reduced discoloration on damaged beans. Higher CO2 (20-30%) concentrations can be used for short periods, but can cause off-flavors.

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere Photos

Title: Chilling Injury (1)

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis  

Title: Chilling Injury (2)

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis   

Title: Chilling Injury (3)

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis


Physiological and Physical Disorders

Chilling injury. The typical symptom of chilling injury in beans stored <5°C (<41°F) for longer than 5-6 days is a general opaque discoloration of the entire bean. A less common symptom is pitting on the surface. The most common symptom of chilling injury is the appearance of discrete rusty brown spots which occur in the temperature range of 5-7.5°C (41-45°F). These lesions are very susceptible to attack by common fungal pathogens. Beans can be held about 2 days at 1°C (34°F), 4 days at 2.5°C (36°F), or 8-10 days at 5°C (41°F) before chilling symptoms appear. No discoloration occurs on beans stored at 10°C (50°F). Different varieties differ significantly in their susceptibility to chilling injury.

Freezing injury. Appears as water-soaked areas which subsequently deteriorate and decay. Freezing injury occurs at temperatures of -0.7°C (30.7°F) or below.

Rough handling at harvest or damage from shipping containers can result in translucent areas that are susceptible to decay.

Pathological Disorders

Decay due to various pathogens occurs after beans have been chill damaged. Surface decay may also occur on stems and beans if free moisture is present during storage at >7.5 (>45°F). Common postharvest decay organisms on green beans are the fungi Pythium, Rhizopus, and Sclerotinia, all of which may occur as "nests" of decay or on broken or damaged beans.

Special Considerations

Haricot Verts. Extra careful handling is required for tender immature green beans or haricot verts to avoid physical damage and dehydration.

Long beans have similar postharvest requirements as green beans and similar responses to chilling temperatures. Long beans may yellow more and have more seed development during postharvest handling than snap beans.

Disorders Photos

Title: Anthracnose

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Botrytis Gray Mold

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis 

Title: Physical Injury

Photo Credit: Marita Cantwell, UC Davis

Title: Sclerotinia Sclerotiorum (with apothecium)

Photo Credit:

Title: White Rot

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis


May 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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