Monday, December 19, 2005

An apple a year.. may cost us dear

In our kitchen is a fruitbowl, which tends to brim with a varied selection, usually dominated by satsumas, as supermarkets seem incapable of not selling them on two for one deals. Fortunately my family eats quite a lot of fruit, so the turnover is high. But it is often not enough to prevent something at the bottom going waaay past ripe to a sort of hirsuit Mekon phase, being green, evil and not a little fuzzy. The kids don't eat these.

Nor do they eat an apple that is anything but firm, crips and sweet. And certainly not if there is any evidence of a brown tinge that may extend beneath the surface.

I was pondering this recently when I watched a cowboy movie set in the American Civil War. In one part, a fugitive had sought refuge in a cellar, which had a a harvest's worth of apples in barrels (one of which he ate, with the discarded core being his undoing). How come a hundred years ago apples could make it though several months, but these days you'll be lucky to reach a week before they exceed their 'kids'll-eat-it' date?

Well, it seems help is (actually has been for a while) at hand:

(by now you'll need to subscribe... why can't they just be nice like the Telegraph, BBC and all sorts of other fine folk, and just leave it up?).

What it reports is that of the country’s bestselling apples are being treated with a chemical, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), that enables them to be stored for a year before going on sale in supermarkets and grocery stores.


I must confess to being a bit torn. On the one hand anything that prolongs the storage life of produce seems like a good thing in the cause of preventing spoilage and hence waste, but I have to say sinking my teeth into anything coated with something ending in '-ene' is a bit of an appetite supressant.

But my main question is, what the heck did they use to achieve the same effect back in the the good 'ole days?