Baby corn is a young finger like unfertilized cobs of maize used as nutritious vegetable, for humans. It is delicious, decorative and rich in vitamins and minerals besides a good source of easily digestible fibrous protein. It is an organic food being protected in the husk and free from pesticides chemical residues. It is used in developing a numbers of value added products. It is a potential crop to generate income and employment for the rural youth, women besides maintaining the soil health. India can be a potential exporter due to its low cost of production.
Post harvest management determines quality, safety, competitiveness of the produce in the market and the profits earned by producers. Post harvest technology includes operations viz., harvesting, de-husking, grading, packaging, transportation, processing, storage, quality standards and labeling.
After harvesting, baby corns should be kept in shady places having good ventilation. Also, it should not be piled up and left for days. It should be de-husked immediate after harvesting, if possible.
De-husking should be done with pointed end of thin knives so as to lightly slit baby corn length wise. Then, use knives to cleave around the bigger end of baby corn, and husk it along slits on ears but care should be taken not to damage inner spikes. All silk should be removed properly and then put cleaned baby corn in containers such as carton boxes, net plastic baskets to facilitate ventilation. The boxes should be kept in shady areas, and water should not be sprinkled over it, otherwise it will turn blackish and rotten eventually. Clean water absorbing cloth can be used to cover baby corn, preventing ears on top from being too dry. Precautions should be taken to avoid knife wound on baby corn so as to save them from appearance of blackish scars which will lower the price.
This is the process of sorting of produce according to the grades or classes. Different classes are normally based on the length and diameter of the corn. Baby corn can be sorted and graded by machine or manually. The grades of baby corn are (i) Large size: 11-13 cm long and 1.4-1.5 cm diameter, (ii) Medium size: 7-11 cm long with 1.2-1.4 cm diameter and (iii) Small size: 4-7 cm long with 1.0-1.2 cm diameter.
Good packaging is necessary for easy handling, transportation and storage. The material used for packaging must be new, clean, including reusable material of food grade quality and of a quality such as to avoid any external or internal damage to the produce. The contents of each package must contain only the cobs of baby corn of the same origin, and be uniform in quality and size. The containers must meet the quality, hygiene, ventilation and resistance characteristics to ensure suitable handling, shipping and storage of the baby corn. The containers must be free of all foreign matter and smell.
De-husked baby corn is packed in perforated polybags, thermocool trays covered with cellophane, tin, glass bottles. For longer time of preservation, glass packing is the best having 52% baby corn with 48% brine solution.
Baby corn products are usually exported by air because they are highly perishable. Packages should be transported from the packing facility to the airport in cool trucks. In all cases, trucks should be covered to prevent contact with wind, rain and sun. Mode of transport should be selected as per the requirement according to quantity and distance. It should be easily available at the time of transport, particularly during peak period after harvest and it should be comparatively cheaper among available alternatives.
Baby corn can be processed to improve its shelf-life. Main processing methods which can be used to improve the shelf-life are canning, dehydration and freezing. Canning is the most commonly used method for baby corn processing because it can be stored for months together for transport to far off places. Dried baby corn can be packed in polythene pack/vacuum pack/tetra pack and can be stored well for longer period. Products developed using dried baby corn have been found to be acceptable organoleptically like those prepared from fresh baby corn. Baby corn can be frozen and stored for long period like other frozen vegetables. Preparation like soups and vegetables prepared from frozen baby corn as acceptable as preparation made from fresh baby corn.
Refrigerate immediately to retain sweetness. Low temperatures reduce the rate of the conversion of sugar to starch. De-husked baby corn can be refrigerated for up to one week without losing its quality. It should be stored at 50 -7 0C, with a relative humidity of 90 per cent. Baby corn can also be frozen. Also, place husked baby corn in boiling water or steam.
The minimum quality requirements in all classes subject to the special provisions for each class and the tolerance allowed for the cobs of baby corn. Its colour should be creamish or light yellow. It must be whole, fresh in appearance, free of rotting or deterioration such as to make them unfit for consumption, clean, practically free of any visible foreign matter; free of abnormal external moisture, after packing, excluding condensation following removal from cold storage, free of any foreign smell or taste, free of pests or damage caused by pests affecting the general appearance of the produce. The cut that is made on the base of the cobs must be clean as the slight discoloration of the cut surface due to storage is unacceptable. Its trimming should be neat and leave no scars on ear. The baby corn must be correctly harvested, post harvest handled, storage and transported in order to obtain quality produce in satisfactory condition at the place of destination.
Each package must bear the particulars, in the documents accompanying the shipment, in the label or on package, with legibly, indelibly marked and without false or deceptive information regarding nature of the produce. If the produce is not visible from the outside, each package shall be labeled with the name of the produce i.e. “Baby Corn”, class, size (optional), net weight in grams or kilograms, information of distributor i.e. name and address of the producer or packer or distributor or head office of producer in the country, name and address of importer for imported baby corn, origin of produce, country of origin, except if it is produced for domestic distribution, date of packing, language of label of produce for domestic markets must be in national or regional languages. Produce label for export can be in language of the exporting country.
The post harvest management of baby corn in India is, however, far from satisfactory. The major constraints include inefficient handling at field and transportation levels. Further, the other major constraints are poor technologies for storage, processing, packaging, grading and infrastructure. There is an immediate need of taking action in order to upgrade systems and to reduce the levels of post harvest losses in India.
Post harvest management determines quality, safety, competitiveness of the produce in the market and the profits earned by producers. Post harvest technology includes various operations such as de-husking, grading, packaging, transportation, storage and processing. The major constraints include inefficient handling at field and transportation levels. Further the other major constraints are poor technologies for storage, processing, packaging, grading and infrastructure. Baby corn can be processed to improve its shelf-life. Main processing methods which can be used to improve the shelf-life are canning, dehydration and freezing.
Manraj Yadav, M.sc. Agronomy
Senior Research Fellow