AHEIA - Providing leadership to support and strengthen Australia's trade in horticultural produce.

Capsicum

History

The Capsicum species originated in South and Central America, and Christopher Columbus brought it back to Europe when he returned from the Americas. Records show that capsicum has been used in cooking since 6000 BC. In Australia, capsicum became popular thanks to European and Asian immigrants who use it extensively.

What are they

They belong to the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. They are often referred to as ‘peppers’ and come in a variety of colours, flavours and sizes. They are commonly used in stir fries and salads and can be stuffed or grilled and marinated in garlic and olive oil.

How are they grown

Capsicums thrive in warm conditions and are particularly sensitive to cold and do not grow below 10ºC. They grow best in deep well drained, medium textured soils, but will not tolerate saline water.

Where are they grown

Capsicums are grown in most vegetable regions in Australia that have a temperature range of approximately 15ºC to 32ºC.

Variety

Varieties have a primary mature colour that is usually green, but may be yellow or purple. They also have a secondary mature colour that is usually red, but may be orange or yellow or other colours.

How to know when they are ripe

Capsicums can be picked green at the mature primary stage. This is when they are firm, have thick walls and are dark green. If picked too early, they have thinner walls and are inclined to wilt.

Capsicums usually begin flowering 1-2 months after planting and will take up to around 110 days from planting to first harvest which then continue until cold weather reduces yield or frost stops growth.

Seasonality

 

Jan

Feb

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Apr

May

June

Jul

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Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Capsicum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather impacts

Capsicums can be damaged by frost. Plants affected by cool weather tend to harden and seldom regain the vigorous growth necessary for high yields. During cold weather, the fruit remains small, hard and malformed because of uneven pollination. The fruit may also have numerous growth cracks.

Fruit may be sun-scorched during hot weather and will show poor setting and poor colouring when temperatures are above 33°C.

Rain and high humidity can increase diseases.

Local market

Fresh consumption with a small amount being  processed.

Storage

Capsicums should not be stored for long periods, or with fruit such as tomatoes that produce ethylene as the gas reduces storage life. Storage conditions should be 7-13 ͦ C at 90-95% relative humidity for a maximum of two to three weeks.

Nutrition

Capsicums are an excellent source of vitamin A and C (red contain more than green capsicums). They are also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin E, B6 and folate. The sweetness of capsicums is due to their natural sugars (green capsicums have less sugar than red capsicums).

Packaging

Capsicums are usually packed on their sides in 6 kg and 12 kg cartons or plastic returnable containers. If being sent directly to a supermarket the standard black supermarket crate is used.

Machines are available that will wash, brush and grade capsicums for size. The fruit also need to be visually graded for colour, so the package contains fruit only of one colour.

Other uses- dried pickled etc

Capsicum can be used to produce the spice paprika. Red capsicums are dried with forced-air heaters and ground to a fine powder.

Medical or natural medicine use

Capsicums are used as a herbal medicine to treat poor circulation, fever and colds, and digestive disorders. Oleo-resins can also be distilled from paprika for the use in pharmaceutical products.

 

References

Northern Territory Primary Industries ‘Capsicum and Chilli Fact Sheet’ http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Primary_Industry/Content/File/horticulture/vegetables/VF4_capsicum_chilli.pdf (January 2016)   
Western Australia Department of Agriculture https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/capsicums-and-chillies/growing-capsicums-and-chillies (January 2016)  

Carrot

History

Carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds rather than their roots. They are native to Europe and south-western Asia. Wild red, black, yellow, white and purple carrots grew in Afghanistan in the 7th century. The Dutch first cultivated orange carrots. Carrots seeds reached Australia on the First Fleet in 1788 and were grown on Norfolk Island by convicts.

What are they

The carrot comes from the Daucus Carota family and is a root vegetable.  When fresh it has a crisp texture that is usually orange in colour, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow varieties exist.

How are they grown

Carrots grow best in full sun and prefer a moderate climate and regular watering. Carrots grow better from seeds but seedlings may also be used. Seeds start to germinate in three to seven days and shoots start emerging between one and three weeks after planting.

Where are they grown

All over Australia.

Variety

In Australia, carrots are not usually sold by variety. You can buy ‘baby’ carrots (usually harvested early) or ‘mature’, larger carrots.

One common type of carrot is the Dutch carrot. These are 5 to 8 cm long and sold in bunches with the leaves attached. Some of the other types of carrots include Imperitor, Nantes, Nantes-Berlicium. These are usually a reddish colour and are cylindrical to cigar-shaped. The new variety Kurodo (or Koyo) is shorter than the common type of carrot that is usually available in the supermarket.

How to know when they are ripe

When the tops of the roots obtain a diameter of 2-3.5 cm they can be considered ready for harvesting. A good watering a couple of hours prior to harvesting greatly facilitates lifting of the carrots. Young roots can be harvested in about 3 months.

Summer carrot crops can be ready for harvest in 16 weeks from sowing, while crops growing through the cooler winter months may grow for up to 24 weeks.

Seasonality

All year round.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

Jul

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather impacts

High temperatures result in short thick roots.

Local market

Fresh and processed (frozen).

Storage

Storage life depends on storage temperature and humidity:

  • At 20°C and 60 to 70% relative humidity, carrots will keep for 2 to 3 days.
  • At 4°C and 80 to 90% relative humidity, carrots will keep for 1 to 2 months.
  • At 0°C and 90 to 95% relative humidity, carrots will keep for up to 6 months
  • The ideal conditions for best keeping quality are pre-cooling and storage at 0°C and 95 to 100% relative humidity.

Nutrition

Carrots have among the highest beta-carotene (provitamin A) level found in vegetables, which gives them the bright orange colour. B-carotene has antioxidant properties that help neutralise potentially health damaging free radicals. The deeper the carrot colour, generally the more carotene, which is broken down during digestion to vitamin A. Purple carrots contain anthocyanin, another antioxidant with health benefits.

Packaging

After harvest, the carrots are washed, brush polished, hydro-cooled, size and quality graded and packed into 10, 15 and 20 kilogram plastic bag-lined cardboard cartons or into 0.5 and 1 kilogram retail ready pre-pack bags.

Link for more information

AusVeg www.ausveg.com.au

 

References

Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/carrots/carrots-western-australia (January 2016)  

Celery

History

Celery, considered part of the holy trinity of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cuisines – celery, onions and capsicum – was also prized in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. For thousands of years it was considered a crucial medicine. In 30 AD, Aulus Cornelius Celsus (a Roman medical writer) suggested using celery seeds for the relief of pain. The cultivated version of wild celery was used extensively in Italian and French cuisine during the Middle Ages. 

What are they

Celery belongs to the Apiaceae family and is related to parsnips and carrots. It has long crisp light green stems and is used in a salad or cooked vegetable.  

How are they grown

In moderate temperatures.

How to know when they are ripe

The time from transplanting to harvest varies from 12 weeks in summer to 18 weeks in winter. Harvest before the stems become pithy or hard and fibrous. In spring, pick at earlier maturity to reduce bolting

Seasonality

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Celery                        

Weather impacts

Avoid extreme hot and cold weather.

Local Market

Fresh consumption.   

Storage

If hydro-cooling is not done, cool to 0°C with forced air or vacuum cooling in crates or bins as soon as possible after packing. Celery can be maintained in good condition for four to five weeks at 0°C and a high relative humidity (90-95%).

Nutrition

Celery is a good source of vitamins A, C and K which is important for helping blood clot. It also contains minerals such as potassium which helps to regulate blood pressure and manganese which involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function.Celery contains dietary fibre and folate.

Packaging

Celery is packed and graded in bunches in the field in 84L crates (30kg net). In the field or packing shed, they are cleaned with cool water to remove soil. Perforated polythene sleeves can be placed over the stems, with the top left open, after free water has drained from the leaves and stalks. Bunches can be dipped in cold water at 0°C (hydro-cooling) to remove field heat before sleeving.

 

References

Better health Victoria https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ingredientsprofiles/Celery (January 2016)

Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/celery/growing-celery-western-australia?page=0%2C0 (Janaury 2016)  
 

Lettuce

History

Originally viewed as a weed, it was only used for its oil rich seeds until the ancient Egyptians later cultivated it for its leaves. The explorer Christopher Columbus introduced lettuce to the Americas in the 15th century and by the late 20th century, the world was consuming lettuce. Lettuce seeds arrived in Australia on the First Fleet and now days, this popular vegetable is often found in backyard gardens around the country.

What are they

Lettuce is a part of the daisy family and is grown as a leafy green vegetable. Lettuce varieties range in sizes, shapes, colours and flavours however crisphead (iceberg), romaine (cos), butterhead and looseleaf are the most popular in Australia.

  • Crisphead has a compact, round head and firmly packed leaves
  • Cos has long, dark green leaves
  • Butterhead has soft green or brown-red leaves
  • looseleaf varieties do not form heads and come in various shapes and colours

How are they grown

Lettuce grows best at relatively cool temperatures and does not like extreme heat or cold. High daytime temperatures greater than 30°C at or near harvest can cause wilting. Lettuce can be grown from seeds or seedlings and requires plenty of water as it has shallow roots.

Where are they grown

Lettuce is grown all over Australia however the main lettuce production regions in Australia are the Lockyer Valley and Eastern Darling Downs (SE Qld); Hay and Central West (NSW); Lindenow and Robinvale (Vic); Manjimup and Gingin (WA); Virginia (SA) and Cambridge, Richmond and Devonport (Tas).

How to know when they are ripe

Lettuce plants are usually ready to harvest in six to 12 weeks. Around a week before your estimated harvest date, pick a few lettuces that appear to be ready to harvest. Push on the top of them to see how firm they are.  If the larger lettuces are firm, cut a few in half and check how closely leaves are packed in the head. If they are packed closely and most of the field has heads of about that size and firmness, the crop is ready to harvest.

Knowing when they are ready for harvest differs between varieties.  This depends on variety, season and the weather conditions

Seasonality

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

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Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Lettuce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather impacts

Heavy winter frosts of -3C will damage lettuce and kill young seedlings. During extensive rainy weather the plants are likely to become infected with diseases.

Local market

Fresh consumption including pre packaged salads.

Storage

Lettuce should be pre-cooled to as close to 1°C as possible within 1 to 2 hours of harvest. After pre-cooling they should be stored at 4°C and 95 to 100% relative humidity.

Nutrition

Depending on the variety, lettuce typically has a good source of Vitamin A, C and K, Iron and folate.

Packaging

Solid lettuce heads are cut, trimmed to 4 to 5 wrapped leaves and packed into waxed cartons, 12 to 16 heads per carton. Lettuce heads should be tightly packed in the carton to avoid movement during transport. Pack in two layers with hearts to the bottom and top, and butts to the middle.

 

 

References

Agriculture Queensland ‘Critical Temperature Thresholds Lettuce’ By Peter Deuter, Neil White, David Putland  http://www.managingclimate.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Critical-temperature-thresholds_Lettuce_V2.pdf (Febrary 2016)  
Queensland Department Agriculture and Fisheries http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/1660/4/3growlet.pdf (January 2016)

Pumpkin

History

Pumpkins have been cultivated for more than 5000 years. They are believed to have originated in Central America. Pumpkin seeds were carried by explorers and nomadic tribes and eventually spread to Asia and Europe.

What are they

Pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes cucumbers, gourds, melons, squash and zucchinis. Pumpkins can vary in colour from white to yellow to orange to green.

How are they grown

Pumpkins are frost sensitive and need frost-free growing periods of 4 to 5 months. High temperatures (above 35C) and low humidity are not conducive to high yields. Temperatures of 20C to 35C are ideal for maximum production.

The seeds develop into a vine with tendrils that grow along the ground and wrap around all obstacles that they encounter. Male and female flowers are produced on a single plant, with bees and other insects transferring pollen between flowers.

Where are they grown

All over Australia

Variety

Butternut, Windsor Black, Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale, Sweet Grey

How to know when they are ripe

It takes about 24 weeks before the pumpkin plant is mature and the pumpkins are ready for harvest. A cracked, dried stalk indicates that the pumpkins are ready for picking. Depending on the variety, the skin (rind) also changes colour as the pumpkin matures.

Seasonality

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

Jul

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local market

Fresh consumption and processed

Storage

Pumpkins for storage must be sound and should be handled with great care. Any bruise will soon develop a rot, which can spread through the stack. The ideal storage is a rat proof shed, built well off the ground, preferably at the level of a motor truck tray. Provide plenty of shelves to allow free circulation of air inside the shed.

In areas not subject to severe frost, pumpkins can be stored satisfactorily under heavily-foliaged cypress hedges, but for long storage pumpkins must be stored at temperatures above 7°C or breakdown caused by cold damage will occur.

Nutrition

  • Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in the body, and vitamin C.
  • It also contains dietary fibre and minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).

Packaging

Most growers sell their pumpkins in bulk, by the kilogram. Butternut pumpkins are usually sold in 20 kg red net bags or fibreboard cartons

Other uses

Both the seeds (roasted) and flowers are edible.

References

Better Health Victoria https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ingredientsprofiles/Pumpkin (January 2016)  

Queensland Department of Primary Industries http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/311485/Pumpkin-production.pdf (January 2016)