'Tis the season for apple picking, and if you recently plucked yours fresh from a local orchard, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, because the ones you get in a supermarket are older—sometimes much older—than you may suspect.
“A number of commodities, including apples, may be stored to extend their availability for marketing,” said Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesperson, Lauren Suche. “In controlled temperatures and low humidity, apples can be stored for months before being consumed.”
Months? As in up to 10 months! Freshly picked apples will only last a few weeks before nature takes its course, but if apples are stored “under temperature-controlled conditions,” they remain edible for close to a year.
Of course, preserving apples is nothing new. People used to have cold storage cellars for exactly that purpose, yet they likely reserved the freshest apples for eating and baking and the rest for canning or juicing.
Commercial distributors engage in a bit of hocus-pocus. Frequently apples are treated with a colourless gas called 1-methylcyclopropene that “naturally regulates ripening and aging” (the same stuff that stops lettuce from browning) before they are shipped to stores.
The chemical is said to be harmless, but even if that apple you just bought tastes OK, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s fresh and healthy. The Golden (Delicious) Rule is the older the apple, the fewer the antioxidants. The nutrients contained in the apple’s skin depreciate over time.
Fortunately, supermarkets are catching on to consumer demand for fresh produce, with some listing when and where their produce was harvested. You should expect the same standards from any farmer’s market, too, although I have found that not all local grocers are created equal.
You tell me: Do you buy your produce at a supermarket or elsewhere?