One of the many joys of fall is the availability of sweet, crisp apples. But unless you've plucked them yourself right from a tree at the local orchard, you might not be getting fruit that's all that fresh. That's because many fruit companies treat their apples with a compound called 1-methylcyclopropene, an FDA-approved colorless gas that prolongs the ripening and aging process for as long as a year.
Apples can be stored in controlled environments with low humidity for as long as 10 months. Many suppliers do this to meet the year-round demand from grocery store consumers and wholesale buyers who use apples in other ways, such as in fruit drinks and applesauce. In their natural state, apples last only a few weeks before getting mushy.
Finding the apple of your eye:
- A freshly-picked apple is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in the peel. However, antioxidant levels in fruit decrease during storage.
- A U.S. firm called Agrofresh produces a chemical marketed as SmartFresh, which the company says locks in the apples' flavor, preserving quality. The chemical is also used on bananas, melons, tomatoes and avocados.
- Some retailers now label produce such as apples to inform shoppers of when the fruit was grown and picked. Buying apples in season, and from local growers, is always the best strategy.