Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
Treatment may keep fruit, veggies fresh longer


September 29, 2009
By The Canadian Press

Topics

September 29, 2009, Kentville, NS – Researchers
in Kentville, N.S., have discovered that giving fruits and vegetables a sauna
can extend their shelf life by 50 per cent.



September 29, 2009, Kentville, NS – Researchers
in Kentville, N.S., have discovered that giving fruits and vegetables a sauna
can extend their shelf life by 50 per cent.

Bob
Stark and Katherine Sanford, who work at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture
Research Centre
, have devised a way to use spas to extend the shelf life of
fruits and vegetables, while at the same time improving their flavour, colour
and quality.

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The
work began a few years ago when the two researchers began experimenting with
the spa process on fresh cabbage, followed by melons, blueberries and peppers.

The
produce is put through a process called low-temperature thermal treatment,
which bathes the fruits and vegetables in moist warm air before cooling them.

The
steam process not only kills micro-organisms that shorten shelf life, but it
also activates a chemical process that enhances the colour, flavour, quality
and texture, Stark and Sanford said in a recent interview at the research
centre.

“Being
able to extend the shelf life while keeping the quality, colour, flavour and
original texture of the product is important,” said Sanford.

“The
whole driving force on this project was the concept of getting people to
increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.”

One
of the things that prevent people from eating more fruits and vegetables is
convenience. The research focused on improving convenience while keeping the
nutritional content.

“We’ve
had a very positive response to the products when we did consumer testing with
them,” Sanford said. “People liked the product. There’s a slight enhancement of
the sweetness, while keeping the texture.”

The
steam process can also be used to kill insects and was originally designed for
organic products.

“So
something that’s mild and non-chemical can be used to clean up some products,”
said Stark. “It looks very promising for the organic aspect.”

The
low-temperature thermal machine was developed by the two researchers and found
to be more effective than traditional methods used on fruits and vegetables,
including blanching.

The
longer shelf life and improvements in quality could translate into big savings
for retailers and consumers.

Statistics
Canada
estimates that stores, restaurants and families throw out nearly half of
their fruits and vegetables because of spoilage.

The
machine, a prototype of which is at the research centre, can also act as a
commercial cooker, especially for small potatoes.