It seems like just yesterday I bought some fresh lemons at my local grocery store and used several of them. When I went to get out the last one all I could see was what looked like a fuzzy blue-green tennis ball. What happened to my lemon?
Before you place the blame on just the end user or even the grocery store it is only fair to tell a more complete story. How well your citrus stores and how long it is good is affected by many factors that can go all the way back to the grower and how the fruit is handled on its way to your home.
That photo shows at least two different types on mold that go into converting the lemon to what looks like a fuzzy blue-green tennis ball. The term blue mold may also be applied to Penicillium roqueforti, a mold used in producing the taste and characteristic blue-green inclusions in Roquefort and other blue cheeses.
Green mold is an umbrella term that refers to a number of species of fungus with spores that take on a green tint. The more common species usually belong to three genuses of fungi: Cladosporium, Aspergillus and Penicillium.
Did you know that what happens to your fruit while it is being harvested and transported can adversely affect how long it will stay fresh and look good after you buy it? Here is a very brief statement from a report on industry handling for producers.
Impact of Handling Injuries on Postharvest Fruit Quality. Care should be taken in the field during harvest to minimize damage to fruit since the consequences of mechanical injury are: increased likelihood decay, enhanced water loss and peel breakdown in subsequent handling.
Some fruit packers use a process called “Ethylene Degreening” where a gas is used to enhance the look of the fruit. The process of exposing “green” citrus fruit with low levels of ethylene to enhance coloration. The decay rate of the fruit was increased significantly by degreening with ethylene.
While this method of degreening may seem like a un-natural process it should be noted that the fruit naturally produces the ethylene that causes it to go from green to normal color as it grows on the tree.
Ethylene does not actually ripen the citrus fruit. As such, the acid, sugars and flavors of the juice and pulp are unaffected and not changed by the exposure to ethylene.
There are studies (ongoing) that seem to indicate that factors such as the time of day, the temperature and humidity when the fruit is picked can affect the rate at which decay will occur as the fruit goes on its journey to the consumer.
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180 South “E” Street
Porterville, CA 93257