Every fruit and vegetable breathes. Once a piece of produce is picked from a tree or plant, it continues to respire, aging slowly, until it begins to break down. Microorganisms then move in, causing it to spoil. Refrigeration can delay the process, but only so much.
Some scientists now think they can make your bananas, avocados, and other fresh produce last up to twice as long by delaying spoilage. Apeel, a start-up in Santa Barbara, California, has created a way to extract lipids from several popular crops and transform each type into a powder. Dissolved in water and applied to fruit or vegetables, it forms an edible barrier to lock moisture in and microorganisms out.
Farmers can apply a version of the solution in the field, or distributors can use the rinse on the packing line, extending a fruit’s shelf life by days or even weeks. The FDA recognizes the process as safe, and earlier this year it was approved for use on organic produce.