We all know that bananas tend to turn brown and mushy within a few days after bringing them home from the store. This ripening is caused by the gas, ethylene, which is a chemical released by the banana itself. When bananas are stored in a bag, the gas builds up and leads to faster ripening. This is great if you are making banana bread, but if you are a commercial grower, this poses a huge threat to your company’s profitability. Transporting bananas is difficult because of their tendency to ripen quickly.
However, a team of scientists from China has made a discovery that could revolutionize the banana industry. They have created an environmentally friendly spray that can keep bananas fresh for up to twelve days! The spray, known as a “hydrogel,” is made of a naturally derived chemical from the shells of crustaceans and shellfish. The chemical, known as chitosan, is safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
Chitosan works by killing the bacteria on the surface of the skins of fruits and vegetables. Bananas breathe through their skin by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. As their breathing rate increases, the bacteria thrives and their skin begins to get softer and riper which eventually leads to rotting. Chitosan suppresses this process.
Says a researcher involved with its development, “Once bananas begin to mature, they quickly become yellow and soft, and then they rot. We have developed a way to keep bananas green for a longer time and inhibit the rapid ripening that occurs. Such a coating could be used at home by consumers, in supermarkets or during shipment of bananas.” He further explains that the spray is still being refined for widespread commercial use.
This is an exciting discovery with vast implications for the food industry. If scientists can develop more natural, environmentally friendly ways to protect our food, then we can also find healthier ways to develop pesticides for use in the growing of our fruits and vegetables. Read more here.