Industrial efforts to eliminate amber-colored apples
Nobody likes to eat yucky-looking food. The problem is that we’re not as good as identifying true yuck as we think we are. Kids are famously finicky about the appearance of their food, but adults really aren’t much better, which has actually led to huge amounts of wasted produce each year. Years of research are giving apples a bit of a facelift, reducing the browning that takes place in the fruit’s flesh once it’s exposed to the air. With any luck, we’ll find more sliced apples attractive enough to see if they’re tasty.
The first whitening measure is based on freezing the apples in time, more or less. Companies like Crunch Pak have a series of treatments they apply to up to six million slices of apple a day. These treatments include a layer of calcium salts and vitamin C to minimize oxidation. They also carefully refrigerate whole apples, aiming to have the produce eaten in June not be noticeably different from those that were just harvested in October.
Blocking the browning
No less elaborate, but very different in approach, is the Artic apple, designed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Nearly two-decades of research has gone into isolating exactly what causes apples (and potatoes!) to brown in the first place. The Artic apple carries an extra gene to trigger RNA interference, which then blocks the browning enzymes before they mar the flesh’s appearance. Mold and decay will still be visible, but apple slices should look invitingly pale for up to four weeks in a refrigerator, a week longer than the Crunch Pak processing.
Decomposition by design
The sinister browning in question is, of course, completely natural. Despite our preferences to the contrary, and apple is a way for a plant to deliver seeds to new patches of soil. When air hits the flesh, cell walls happily start breaking down, allowing polyphenol oxidases to form phenols and thus, brown fruit. This sensitivity to air makes sense, considering an opened apple isn’t likely still on a tree, and is thus ready to drop its seeds off to grow a new plant. Of course, as humans have proven with bananas, watermelons and grapes, we’re really not interested in our food’s reproductive needs.
When it comes down to it, we want our food to just look like lunch, and be twice as easy to eat. Apparently leaving our apples unsliced, while avoiding browning for weeks, isn’t a solution because people are less likely to eat whole fruit. Sliced apples get consumed at a significantly higher rate— high enough that that debate is basically settled for apple producers. If this trend builds, you’ll never see another apple core again, brown or otherwise.
Source: Say Hello To The Apple That Never Browns by Stephanie M. Lee, BuzzFeed