The impregnation of leafy vegetables with cryoprotectants using a combination of vacuum impregnation (VI) and pulsed electric fields (PEF) has been proposed by our research group as a method of improving their freezing tolerance and consequently their general quality after thawing. In this study, we have investigated the metabolic consequences of the combination of these unit operations on spinach. The vacuum impregnated spinach leaves showed a drastic decrease in the porosity of the extracellular space. However, at maximum weight gain, randomly located air pockets remained, which may account for oxygen-consuming pathways in the cells being active after VI. The metabolic activity of the impregnated leaves showed a drastic increase that was further enhanced by the application of PEF to the impregnated tissue. Impregnating the leaves with trehalose by VI led to a significant accumulation of trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P), however, this was not further enhanced by PEF. It is suggested that the accumulation of T6P in the leaves may increase metabolic activity, and increase tissue resistance to abiotic stress.
Keywords: Pulsed electric field; Spinach leaves; Vacuum impregnation.
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