Free sterol and polyamine contents were investigated in chicory leaves of different physiological ages and throughout a postharvest period. The major polyamine present was putrescine (put), especially in the oldest leaves. Spermidine (spd) was present in considerable amounts, showing a tendency to decrease with the increasing physiological age of the leaves. At harvest, the put content in the floral stalk was similar to that in older leaves and it increased during postharvest. The opposite was found for spd, being similar to younger leaves and being constant during postharvest. Free sterol content increased with postharvest and also with physiological age of the leaves. Sitosterol was always the major free sterol present, followed by stigmasterol and campesterol. The stigmasterol to sitosterol ratio rose with time after harvest, older leaves showing higher ratios than younger leaves. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.