Preservation of mature green tomatoes in a controlled atmosphere (CA) was studied under semi-arid condition in Nigeria. Mature-green tomatoes were held in 5-litre glass jars filled with 4% oxygen and 96% nitrogen at ambient temperature of 24 to 29°C for 5 days or 10 days. The fruits were thereafter exposed to normal atmosphere and compared with fruits that were stored in normal air (control).. Fruits held in CA for 5 days (CA+5) showed fresh appearance, normal ripening, lowered weight loss and a significant reduction in spoilage (P< 0.05) compares those stored in ambient (24 to 29°C and 56 to 74% RH). CA holding for 10 days (CA+10) caused marked off-flavor in the fruits and they did not ripen to full eating also showed significantly higher decay than those held for 5 days. The shelf life of 5 days in the ambient was extended to 14 days and 16 days when initially held in nitrogen atmosphere for 10 days (CA+10) and 5 days (CA+5) respectively. The present study revealed that the CA storage of tomatoes (using nitrogen) enhance the retention of the sensory qualities of Roma tomatoes when they were held for 5 days than for 10 days before normal storage in air.
Key words: Spoilage, fruit holding period, shelf life, sensory quality.