Ethylene production, quality attributes and aroma compounds were analysed to determine the maturity evolution of ‘Big Top’ nectarines and ‘Royal Glory’ peaches at harvest dates ranging from 89 to 116 days after full bloom (DAFB) for nectarines and from 85 to 112 DAFB for peaches. These cultivars are highly coloured even in the early stages of maturity. However, the two cultivars had different patterns of ethylene production, this being slower in nectarines than in peaches. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to provide partial visualisation of the complete data set in a reduced dimension plot. Separation of the two cultivars can be shown by means of a two-dimensional plot of the samples. Although only some aroma compounds are slightly correlated with quality parameters, when aroma volatiles were included in the PCA, the aroma compound set allowed both cultivars to be classified into three stages of maturity: immature, intermediate and fully mature. Compounds such as propanol, hexyl acetate, 2-methylpropyl acetate, limonene, butanol, (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, buthyl acetate, linalool, ethanol, propyl acetate and ethyl acetate are the most important volatiles for ‘Big Top’ nectarines. It is suggested that the presence of these compounds can be used to indicate when the fruit should be harvested. The presence of γ-decalactone, δ-octalactone, γ-octalactone, ethyl butyrate, hexanal and (E)-2-hexenol can be used to indicate the harvesting maturity stage for ‘Royal Glory’ peaches. The optimum maturity date for harvest would be 105–107 DAFB for ‘Big Top’ nectarines and 93–95 DAFB for ‘Royal Glory’ peaches.
© 2002 Society of Chemical Industry