• butter lettuce;
  • chlorophyll degradation;
  • overall visual quality;
  • shelf life;
  • water status

ABSTRACT:  The purpose of this study was to evaluate water status, chlorophyll content (C), and overall visual quality (OVQ) of fresh butter lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. Lores) as well as these indexes' evolution during storage and their relationships, if any. Whole lettuce plants were stored at optimal postharvest conditions (0 to 2 °C and 97% to 99% relative humidity). Measured parameters during each sampling day were relative water content (RWC), water content (WC), free water (FW), bound water (BW), free water to total water ratio (FW/TW), C, and OVQ. All parameters were evaluated in the external, middle, and internal zones of lettuce heads. The external zone had higher initial values of RWC, WC, and FW than the internal zone. The external zone yielded the highest FW/TW ratio (85%), indicating that external leaves had more water available to be used in degradation reactions and were more perishable, with the lowest shelf life if compared with the other lettuce zones. During storage, water status index evolution differed from zone to zone. An increase in BW and a decrease in FW were detected in all lettuce zones. RWC turned out to be a more sensitive measurement than WC. Yet RWC showed no significant correlation with any index. The OVQ parameter correlates with FW directly, or indirectly through FW/TW in all lettuce zones; therefore, FW is an objective and quantitative measurement, which impacts on the visual quality of butter lettuce. The decrease in chlorophyll content observed in the external leaves strongly correlated with the decrease in OVQ.