Published On: Mon, Jul 4th, 2016

Could pears become as popular as apples? Technology that can ripen fruit on demand could change what we eat

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Finding the perfectly ripe pear has always been as much instinct as science.

Often, the only real way to be sure was to take a bite – a kind of fruit Russian roulette.

The jeopardy results from the fact a pear can quickly go from rock hard to sweet and juicy and then a watery mush in a matter of days.

Now food scientists believe they have come up with a technique to guarantee perfectly ripe pears.

The key is to wash them in a solution that first stalls the ripening process and then, when they are wanted, a fog containing special compounds that can turn it back on again.

This control of ripening, combined with selling pears in juicy fresh slices is being promoted as a way to challenge the dominance of apples on the nation’s tables.

At one time, fruit like apples, pears and strawberries were seasonal. There was a short window, a few weeks or at most months, when they came off the farm and were in their prime.

Any excess might have been processed for jams and juices or canned and frozen. A lot was simply thrown away.

However, farmers and food scientists have developed growing, storage and packaging techniques that have made a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables available 52 weeks a year.

Vast, refridgerated warehouses where the oxygen has been reduced can dramatically slow the ripening process.

The air inside packs of pre-washed salad is also modified to reduce oxygen to increase the shelf life.

Ripening occurs in fruit when starches are converted into sugar.

When apples are picked commercially a substance called SmartFresh is applied to hold them in a state of suspended animation.

The synthetic compound works by preventing the ripening gas ethylene from working, which in turn stops starch being converted into sugar.

Professor Amit Dhingra, who works in the department of horticulture at Washington State University, is using this same solution with pears, but he has gone a step further and found a way to reverse it.

He said: ‘Apples that were harvested a year ago and stored in a controlled atmosphere seem as fresh as this year’s crop.

‘Getting a nicely ripened pear is harder than winning the lottery.’

Pears, unlike apples, are not ripe when picked off a tree, so when the same SmartFresh process is applied it produces a good-looking but inedible fruit.

Prof Dhingra, dubbed ‘Yogi Pear’ by some fruit growers, found a way to get around this after studying the pear’s genome and identifying a metabolic compound that could restart the ripening process.

‘What we did was mix this compound in water and soak the fruit in this water for 24 hours. Then five days later we found that the fruit had ripened beautifully,’ he said.

Prof Dhingra and his team have now developed a process by which they can ripen SmartFresh treated pears en masse in a controlled food storage centre by using an ambient fog containing the new compound.

Sliced pears are seen as the most commercially viable option of introducing the fruit to the mass market after the success of sliced apples in supermarkets and fast food restaurants.

The professor has signed a partnership with US food company, Crunch Pak, which had success selling sliced apples as an alternative to fries in fast food restaurants.

Initial taste test trials on the sliced pears have received positive results.

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  1. Cade says:

    je suis pour le faite d&pom17;i2#8rté des coffe shop ( principe de holland ) qui vise a distribué a une population avertie du cannabis ou shit … la qualiter y est tres bien respecté peux etre serait-il bien d’importé ce principe ? a suivre

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