Fresh Fruit

Handle your fresh fruits gingerly, and they'll likely reward you by staying fresher longer. Once ripe, fruits should be stored in the refrigerator, in the low-humidity crisper drawer. Fruits also keep longer when they have some contact with air. They may do well in store packaging, provided it contains holes that allow some air to circulate. 


Don't wash fruit until you're ready to eat, serve or cook it, as moisture invites mold. All fruit skins should be thoroughly washed prior to slicing or eating, even if you plan on discarding the skin, as you likely will in the case of oranges, cantaloupe or grapefruit. 


Any wax coating on produce can be washed off or not; it’s safe to eat.  These coatings meet FDA regulations for safety.  Moreover, only  a drop or two is used on each piece of fruit.  The wax is applied not just to enhance appearance. It also inhibits mold and bruising. 


Don't refrigerate fruit until it's ripe. To hasten ripening, put a ripening banana in a paper bag with the fruit.


Unlike vegetables, fruits can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap (with no holes) even if the packaging is airtight. Because fruits are very acidic, Clostridium botulinum can’t grow on them.


Unlike vegetables, fruits can be tightly wrapped because they are too acidic for the bacteria that cause botulism to grow on them.  However, for other reasons, some fruits should be only loosely wrapped. Fruits that “transpire” (give off) a lot of moisture (berries especially) are commonly store-wrapped in a manner that allows the moisture to escape. If fruits transpire moisture into an airtight atmosphere, bacteria (ones that don’t cause disease) will grow and make the fruit slimy. Also, some fruits produce large amounts of ethylene gas, which stimulates ripening. Allowing this gas to escape from the package slows the ripening process.


Packaging fruits in environments that don’t contain oxygen also has this advantage. Mold requires oxygen to grow, so air-tight packaging prevents that. Sometimes fruits are packaged in modified atmosphere packaging in which the air has been replaced with carbon dioxide and/or nitrogen, thereby eliminating the oxygen. This is often what you are looking at when you see 4 or 5 pieces of fruit on a styrofoam tray that is overwrapped with plastic film. Fresh-cut fruits should either have the cut surface covered in an airtight manner (with plastic film) or be placed cut surface down into a plastic container or on a plate. This will prevent dehydration (melons), discoloration (apples and peaches) and mold growth (most fruits).




Susan Brewer, Ph.D., University of Illinois, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition




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