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Frost Damaged Explained

Dec 12, 2013
Over the past week, many growing regions have experienced several days’ worth of freezing temperatures.  As you can guess, this isn’t great for crops. But, do you know why?

Today we are covering just a few of the key items that may be affected by the recent freeze, and how it affects the plants.

Leaf Items

Leaf items are about 90% water. It is due to this fact that when temperatures dip below 32 F it causes the cells in the plant to freeze, expand, and then burst. These exploded cells initially show up on the outer layer of the plant as “epidermal peel”. As the freeze continues, more cells burst; the peel worsens, and eventually turns dark and discolored.

When shippers pack this product, they make sure to remove the ugly “damaged” layers to leave an aesthetically appealing item. This means they remove more leaves and therefore generally leads to lighter shipper weights.


Celery is more resilient than delicate leaf items, but if a frost is intense enough can cause some damage. Like lettuce, celery will start sloughing off its dead bursted cells, in the form of blister. The stalk also experiences stress under cold conditions which can weaken the structure of the plant, so that when it is cut it will start cracking or splitting. This is most noticeable on celery sticks.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

These items typically deal with cold by slowing down growth, going dormant until conditions are favorable again. This can mess up harvest schedules and cause a bit of gapping in supply.

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