Monday, December 27, 2021

Waxing the fruit

Coatings applied to the surfaces of fruits and vegetables are commonly called ‘waxes, whether or not any component thereof is actually a wax. Commodities that are waxed include apples, avocados, citrus, cucumbers, eggplant, peaches, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.

A freshly picked apple is matte with dust. It can be scratched, scarred, and pocked with insect bites. An apple in the store is smooth. It shines.

That grocery-store gloss is artificial fruit wax. The wax added to protect Washington apples is usually carnauba or shellac. Both are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and have been used on a variety of foods for decades. These wax formulations are natural, non-petroleum based coatings.

Once an apple leaves the orchard, it is sprayed with a commercial coating specially formulated to impress buyers. These smooth sprayed-on coats give a glow to most retail produce—from cantaloupes to avocados to limes.

Research horticulturists from the USDA report "the use of wax on Red Delicious apples improved firmness and color, and reduced weight loss."

Perhaps the most-studied property of waxed fruit is its weight loss during storage. In almost all cases, waxed commodities lost weight more slowly than unwaxed controls. In fact, weight reduction has been recommended as a criterion of good waxing.

California’s Brogdex Company founder, Ernest Brogden, filed the first U.S. patent to cover fruit on a commercial scale, in 1922. Brogden’s original wax-and-kerosene mixture created “a film-like waxy coating that ... maintains the fruit in its original firm, plump, and fresh condition for relatively long periods of time.”

This layer of waxing was of great importance in diminishing water losses from apples. Research has shown that apple waxing enhances firmness retention and slows down the apple respiration rate.

Although the wax used on Washington apples is safe to consume, according the US Food and Drug Administration, it is important to wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before eating.
Waxing the fruit

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