Ms Vongai Dakwa, a PhD candidate at the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products at the University of Tasmania, is working on increasing the shelf life of baby spinach and other baby salad leaves, so it keeps fresh in your fridge for longer.

Ms Dakwa is working with Woolworths and Houston’s Farm, a Tasmanian grower and processor of baby leafy salad vegetables, to conduct a range of laboratory experiments, to examine a range of post-harvest factors that increase shelf life.

Baby leafy salad vegetables currently have a short shelf life of only about 12 days. The research team has been investigating the influence of storage temperature, surface moisture and bruising on shelf life.

Laboratory trials found that damaged leaves greatly decreased the shelf life of baby leafy vegetables like rocket and spinach.

The research has revealed that shelf life can be increased if cotyledons—the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed—are not included with the packed baby spinach.

Ms Dakwa and the team have also shown that high levels of moisture in packed leafy salad vegetables reduce the product shelf life. They are now trialling innovative ways to remove excess moisture in the bags so the baby salad leaves stay fresher for longer.

Ms Dakwa’s research project is one of ten PhD projects being conducted at the ARC Training Centre, led by food safety expert, Associate Professor Tom Ross, from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.

Image: PhD Candidate Vongai Dakwa measures the colour of baby spinach using a colourimeter in a Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture lab.
Credit: Supplied by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.