[NAFEX] new way to tell if fruit is ripe
Lon J. Rombough
lonrom at hevanet.com
Wed Jul 26 18:47:51 EDT 2006
Professor invents 'ripeness' sticker
TUCSON, Ariz. - A University of Arizona professor has invented a
sticker that can tell consumers if a fruit or vegetable is ripe. The
stickers will be available to growers next year and should make their
way to supermarkets within two to three years, said Mark Riley, a UA
assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.
He said growers and grocers throw out thousands of bushels of fruit
each year because it ripened faster than it could get to market or be
With no simple way to tell whether fruit that looks good on the outside
will taste good on the inside, consumers often buy peaches, pears and
melons they can't eat because they're under-ripe or overripe.
"Right now, picking fruit is more of an art than it is a science,"
A marker on Riley's RediRipe stickers detects a chemical called
ethylene gas, which is released by fruit or vegetables as they ripen.
As that happens, the sticker turns from white to blue.
The more ethylene gas the fruit produces, the darker the blue, Riley
The color shift is not instantaneous once a sticker is attached. It
takes about 24 to 48 hours, depending on how fast the fruit is
ripening, Riley said.
And there are still bugs to be worked out: The stickers do not change
color to reflect an overripe or rotten piece of fruit. Also, not all
fruit produces enough ethylene to be detected by the sticker, said Jim
McFerson, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, a
growers' research group that helped sponsor the research.
"There is still a lot of research to do," McFerson said.
Each sticker is expected to cost growers and grocers about a penny,
There is a patent pending for the stickers through the UA. Riley said
when RediRipe goes to market, the university will keep the patent and
the company will license the product.
Research on ethylene's use in fruit ripening began in the 1940s, and
the gas is used to ripen fruits and vegetables in storage.
Riley has done multiple small field tests on his stickers — including
at an apple orchard in Willcox — and plans a much larger field test
this fall in Washington.
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com
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