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Simple Secret to Preserving Produce That Will Change How You Store Your Fruit

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Keeping fruit fresh longer.

A news release from Rice University tells us that researchers have found a novel way to preserve produce that is cheaper and healthier than current practices. Furthermore, it’s so simple that it could be sold in a spray bottle or even made in the home.

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Fruit Gone Bad Problem

One of the common problems everyone has with produce is the fact that too often it goes bad before it can be used in the kitchen. A good example is strawberries. No matter how carefully you may inspect that carton in the supermarket, there’s a good chance you have only a couple of days before visible mold begins to set in and ruin your breakfast plans.

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Study Offers Bad Fruit Prevention Solution

The good news is that fruit going bad prematurely may soon become a thing of the past. Rice undergraduate student researchers Seohui (Sylvia) Jung and Yufei (Nancy) Cui, along with a number of supporting colleagues, have recently published a new study in the journal Advanced Materials, that describes how they were able to keep produce significantly fresher over longer periods of time using egg white and egg yolk as the base components of a protective coating.

YouTube Video About Rice University Research

However, it’s not just about preserving fruit, but the fact that it is also about helping the environment by repurposing eggs that otherwise would have been wasted. According to the study, the United States produces more than 7 billion eggs a year and manufacturers reject 3% of them, of which the researchers estimate that more than 200 million eggs end up in landfills.

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The researchers determined that the two main components of eggs—the egg whites and yolks—can be used as the principal components for a protective film that can coat fruit and significantly retard the onset of natural ripening and decay.

Besides the egg white and yolk, smaller amounts of other natural additives such as glycerol to give the coating elastic properties; wood or plant cellulose to help resist water loss and resultant shriveling; and curcumin—a natural product used in turmeric and is a member of the ginger family, which has antimicrobial properties to help the fruit resist bacteria and mold.

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What the researchers found was that when fruit such as bananas, strawberries, papayas and avocadoes were sprayed or dipped with their concoction, that it created a nontoxic protective film that preserved the fruit; was very resistant to physical handling; and, could be easily rinsed off using just water with no bad effects on the fruits’ taste.

Even for people with egg allergies or sensitivities, washing off the produce proved to be enough to make the produce safe to eat.

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“Reducing food shortages in ways that don’t involve genetic modification, inedible coatings or chemical additives is important for sustainable living,” says materials scientist and study collaborator Pulickel Ajayan. “The work is a remarkable combination of interdisciplinary efforts involving materials engineers, chemists and biotechnologists from multiple universities across the U.S.”

The significance of this research is that not only could major food producers apply this novel protective film method on their produce, but that it should be a simple matter to manufacture it in a spray bottle or package mix for home use for those who garden at home and sell their produce at local farmer’s markets.

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If you have some tricks to share that helps keep fruit and other produce fresher for longer, tell us about them in the comments section below.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with a background in farming and an avid home gardener, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between plant biology and gardening for healthy living. For continual updates about plants and health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

References:

Egg-based coating preserves fresh produce” Rice University news release, June 4, 2020

"Multifunctional Bio‐Nanocomposite Coatings for Perishable Fruits" Seohui Jung et al. Advanced Materials, 2020; 1908291 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201908291.

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