How come apples in supermarkets look so great and for so long?


We all know what fruits we can find in supermarkets all year round. Yes, apples. To have fresh apples all year round is very difficult, especially in our climate, so it may seem rather strange that you can get fresh apples even during months when they do not grow. And they still look great. However, the taste hardly resembles the fresh apples you get from the tree in autumn. People love apples and buy many of them. So, why they look so fresh and great? Well, read on and we shall tell you.

Foreign produce or domestic?

We often see apples that are imported from foreign countries. But obviously that is not always the case in other countries. For example, in the US, less than one out of ten apples sold in supermarkets comes from abroad. On the other hand, Great Britain is very dependent on imports and up to 70% of apples comes from abroad. So, why certain farmers in the United States and in some other countries are able to supply the market all year round? Artificial ripening is the trick.


Photo: Pixabay

An interesting trick

The “trick” is to store apples efficiently and that involves harvesting “live” apples, and providing them with a similar environment as trees do. Oxygen is provided to apples and they gradually ripen. However, the necessary chemical reactions that need to occur are driven by an enzyme called ethene. This is a simple hydrocarbon (CH2=CH2) and it is sometimes used in large warehouses. This enzyme reduces the oxygen content. Fruits and vegetables are often stored in carbon dioxide – CO2 atmosphere, which is cheaper. Ethene changes the composition of the air where apples ripen. When apples get a smaller portion of oxygen, the ripening process is slowed down and the efficiency of ethene goes down as well. Just to give you an idea, the air in modern warehouses contains about 0.5 to 3% oxygen, but the air we breathe contains around 21% of oxygen. To control the ripening process even the temperature and humidity in the warehouses are regulated. Modern warehouses located in the state of Washington for example can store up to 2/3 of the complete harvest of apples, which ranges from 900 million to 1.4 billion tons!


Photo: Pixabay

The ripening process is artificially stopped

Yes, that is right. Apples that are treated in this way and sold in supermarkets are almost in the same condition as if just plucked from the tree.. The downside is that apples do not have a “chance” to get the typical fresh taste. They are not floury, mushy or anything like that, but in terms of taste and nutrients… well, almost zero. But it is a huge business and an incredible amount of money is made in this way… and that is the way it is.

Preview photo: Pixabay

Radek Štěpán

Gardening is my hobby, I have a lot of experience and I am happy to share it.


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