I could hardly believe my ears when I heard this shocking, appalling news: all the apples I bring home from the supermarket for my family to eat are a whole year old! So, apparently all this talk of fresh, seasonal and natural fruit is a great big supermarket con perpetrated by unscrupulous and misleading large corporations, which we are supposed to put up with.
Read on to find out just how you are being hoodwinked, and learn what you can do to avoid this apple scandal:
A year in the life of an apple
Apple harvesting time is from August to November, when apples are seasonally ripened in orchards all over the place. First, they are harvested and washed with a chlorine and soap solution. Then the apple’s natural coating is chemically removed and replaced with a wax that is edible and shiny. This wax is meant to keep them preserved and delicious looking.
Then the apples are sent through quality control, where standards bizarrely dictate that discolored or misshapen apples must be expelled regardless of their taste. The best are sorted as class 1, to be sold loosely. The next best, class 2, are bagged – and shockingly cost more than the better class 1 simply because they are bagged.
Then, in the USA, the apples are shipped and stored in special refrigerated cold facilities for 6-12 months. Here they are kept airtight at 0 degrees Celsius with reduced oxygen levels, to stop them from aging. Essentially the apples are put to sleep.
Again in the USA only, a special gas called Smart Fresh is applied to the apples which inhibits Ethylene, an apple’s natural ripening agent. Because of this gas, American apples tend to be six months older than European ones. Though recently the EU gave the okay to start Smart Fresh production, so things may be getting worse over in the European Union too.
Smart Fresh and the company behind them maintain that apples which have undergone the year long process do not suffer from reduced flavor or health benefits. Yet one study contradicts these claims, suggesting rather that over time a fruit’s anti-oxidant quantity is limited exponentially. It could even be that after a whole year no anti-oxidants remain at all.
Surprisingly, organic apples do not fare much better, since, although they are not subjected to Smart Fresh, other process are used to achieve the same age-reduction results. Therefore, buying organic is not the answer if you want to avoid eating fake-fresh fruit. And in most cases, supermarkets selling fruit in season, organic or not, are probably still selling last year’s stock since they have so much of it left over.
A certain few supermarkets do stock seasonal fruit. In America, the market leaders are Wholefoods Market. Whereas in the UK, Booths and Waitrose both have a hard earned reputation for faithfully selling freshly picked produce. Otherwise, your option is buy from local farmer markets. Or you could find an orchard and pick them yourselves. After all it makes a great, fun outdoor activity!