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Old 01-10-2012, 01:21 PM   #11
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Okay, wow. This got long. But I hate waxed produce enough to have looked up some of the issues. I''ll get back to green peppers at the end.

Organic produce can be coated with carnuba, beeswax, or shellac. Candellila is less common. Non-organic produce can use petroleum products. All these are available. But if you think about handling wax, you see there's more to coating produce than just melting wax. To get a thin, smooth coat, solvents are used, like alcohols. Or an emulsifier is added to make it mix with water. Stearic acid makes the coating flexible and tough.

Typical ingredients:

Water 65-80%
Alcohol (isopropanol and/or ethanol)0-15%
Carnauba wax/shellac15-18%
Oleic acid and other fatty acids3-5%
Morpholine 1.5-2.5%
Soy or dairy protein0 4%

Many fruits and vegetables have a natural waxy coating. (Nature knew.) Apples, for instance, are already naturally coated. Washing during during processing removes about half of it.

And by the way, the only way to get the commercial coating off is to remove the skin. So, maybe Turtle Wax T-6A Carnauba Car Liquid Wax. Protects against those UV rays, too.

But why so much coating? One is that produce that is harvested while immature has a high respiration rate. Mature fruit has a relatively low respiration rate. (See much nice ripe fruit in the store? Didn't think so.) Because so much is harvested prematurely (tastelessly) to allow travel time and toughness in handling, wax coating is used to retard respiration. And apples and similar fruits that appear in stores may have been harvested months before and stored under carefully controlled environments with altered atmospheres. In one study I read for some of the information below, the author matter of factly mentioned that they obtained the apples they studied from a produce warehouse where they had been in storage for four to five months. (Ever wonder how the store has American apples months out of season?) Waxing helps control things.

But why care? Well, if you care about food, consider that anaerobic metabolism (the kind wax coatings restrict the fruit to) produces ethyl esters. Apples stored in controlled atmospheres (restricted oxygen/increased CO2) for 30 days were found to contain large quantities of acetaldehyde and ethanol. Those are volatile compounds, and volatile compounds are what contribute to a fruit's proper flavor. Except that those two are NOT the ones that you want making contributions to the taste of your apples. Aldehyde is one of the naturally occurring compounds that you do want forming in your apples under normal conditions. Even if apples are returned to a normal atmosphere where they could normally release ethanol, they can't get rid of it with the wax coating. More will form, because the coating still restricts oxygen.

I saw where an apple grower was asked how a consumer could tell if an apple was month old. He could only guess that the stem might still be green if it was pretty new. (I do see difference in stems now that I look, but I still don't know if it means much.) Perhaps the only way to guess is to buy ripe fruit that is in season at its source - or pick it yourself. Actually, apples can keep for 200 days under good conditions of just refrigeration. They go 300 days in controlled atmospheres. It's kind of sad that they even know that.

Back to the original question...

Any sealing will cause anaerobic respiration in fruits and vegetables and cause off flavors. Doesn't matter if it's wax coating or a plastic bag. Well, not all plastics. Thin PVC bags let oxygen and carbon dioxide pass sufficiently. And green peppers don't benefit in terms of keeping longer from controlled environments. They're going to go ten days to three weeks under refrigeration, and that's about it. The wax just makes them look more appealing.
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