“Where Mint Saves Potatoes and Apples Stay Green”
Israeli researcher Amnon Lichter (see picture) is holding two completely different apples in his hands. One has been sitting in the fridge for months, rotting, brown and very sad looking. In the other hand, bright green fruit. Both were picked at the same time, months ago.
What set the apples apart was a simple Israeli Technology developed at Israel’s Volcani Center, a government-run agricultural research organization where 70 percent of Israel’s agricultural advances are born with the help of hundreds of scientists.
I thought it was interesting and was news to me that about half of the farmer’s resources go into post harvest treatment, defined as any time after the fruits, vegetables and flowers are picked and when they arrive at a customer’s home. They are also trying to minimize loss with a decreasing use if chemicals. Volcani scientists are developing a range of new generation treatments and means for measuring their results. Obviously better postharvest results ensure that fewer foods and flowers are wasted, with less energy going to producing what eventually gets to the buyer.
I don’t know about you, but while I certainly do appreciate innovation like this, something like it would never cross my mind. I must be High-Tech-Challenged indeed while certainly in awe of technology that affects our everyday existence so beautifully. In the case of those apples, they weren’t kept green by snow white’s kiss (she only does the red ones). They were kept fresh through oxygen starvation, a technique being applied and studied in one of the Volcani labs.
“We are using nitrogen for a week to starve the apples of air,” says Lichter, showing the differences between apples treated with nitrogen and those that weren’t. “When they are starved of oxygen, the same apples can be stored for a year without going brown’’, he says. The treatment involves a non-toxic biochemical solution that is sprayed over the apple. Since the fruit is alive, it must respire. Without air , the apple turns to alternate modes of “breathing” and as a consequence the brownish phenolic compounds in the apples are reduced.
While there are currently chemical means for long-term storage of apples on the market, new standards enacted by governments worldwide are demanding fruit without chemical residue. The Israeli-made technique is one promising approach to the problem.
Mint makes for fresher potatoes. Like apples they do eventually spoil and in the case of the potato, they sprout, turn green and besides losing all their taste they can also generate a harmful chemical called solanine.
I found this really interesting!
To stop potatoes from sprouting, Volcani researchers came up with a natural and safe solution: mint. A misty mint oil spray applied once a month when the potatoes are in cold storage keep the vegetables looking and being “fresh from the farm”. It takes a monthly fumigation with mint oil to store potatoes this way and the technique is currently commercially applied in Israel, where some 40% of potatoes reaching the local markets are mint treated.
Also showcased recently is another Israeli achievement involving the cut-herb industry with another simple invention that works wonders. In the past, Israel would never dream of exporting fresh herbs and spices to North America by ship. Now, when they are wrapped in plastic bags perforated with tiny holes, the herbs are able to get exactly the right moisture environment with no water build up to make them wilted and rotten.
The Volcani Center in Israel is a superb problem-solving hub for local farmers and for industry, government and NGO’s who seek solutions to global food issues. Visitors are welcome and if you come at the right time, tours of the Volcani orchards can be extra tasty, with fruit picked right from the tree and fresh from the vine and Earth.