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Spray-on coating delays banana ripening

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Scientists reporting at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society say they have found a way to extend the shelf life of bananas using a spray-on coating.

Whenever I buy bananas, it’s a race against the clock to eat them. Every day that they sit there in a plastic fruit dish on the counter I watch as they shrivel and brown. Most weeks I’m lucky if I eat two out of four.

But now scientists have found a way to delay the death of a banana by about a week and a half.

Scientists reporting at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society said they have found a way to extend the shelf life of bananas using a spray-on coating made from chitosan, a material found in shrimp and crab shells.

"We found that by spraying green bananas with a chitosan aerogel, we can keep bananas fresh for up to 12 days," the study’s leader Xihong Li, Ph.D said at the meeting. "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."

Similar to other fresh fruits and vegetables, bananas are alive and breathe or respire. They take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide through the skin. And respiration quickens after a banana is picked, when the game of beat the clock begins.

Chitosan works by killing bacteria that cause produce to rot. It has been used in efforts to extend the shelf of fruits and vegetables, but this was the first time it has been used to slow the ripening of bananas.

Scientific American’s Christie Nicholson reports: “Chitosan not only kills the bacteria on banana’s skin that then leads to rot, it also significantly slows down the respiration in the first place. So bananas won’t drive you bananas.”

Li is currently looking for the right ingredients to make the gel so that it can be sold commercially.

Via Science Daily

Photo via flickr/srqpix

Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure