Did you know that apples produce their own wax?
If you’ve gone to the grocery store or local market looking for juicy apples, you’ve likely noticed a thin wax coating on the fruit. Many people are unfamiliar with why apples have wax on them, but these fruits produce wax all on their own. Learn more about apple wax and why it’s essential.
Why Is There Wax on Apples?
Like pumpkin spice lattes and leaves falling from the trees, apples are a sign of fall for plenty of people. But some have started to feel concerned about the safety of apples due to online videos warning about the dangers of wax coatings.
Coating apples with wax isn’t harmful to the people or other animals who eat the fruits. In fact, the wax coating offers many benefits, protecting the fruits and ensuring they have a pleasing texture and delicious taste. Learn more about wax on apples, including where it comes from and why it’s there.
Is the Wax on Apples Natural?
Many people aren’t aware that apples produce their own natural wax coating. The natural apple wax is sometimes called bloom, and you can identify it by looking for a thin white layer around the fruit. Natural apple wax acts like a protective barrier or coating, preserving the fruit as it grows. When farmers harvest apples, they’ll wash them to remove any dirt or debris before packaging, which removes the wax layer.
Apples are just one of several types of fruits that make their own wax — pears and plums also produce a natural wax coating. The coating contains up to 50 compounds, many of which are esters. Of the wax’s compounds are triterpenoids, such as ursolic acid. Ursolic acid inhibits aromatase, which can in turn help limit the production of estradiol, a type of estrogen that can lead to cancer. While the level of ursolic acid found in the skin of apples is probably not high enough to have a significant health benefit, it also doesn’t hurt.
Benefits of Natural Apple Wax
The wax that naturally forms on apples protects the fruit when it’s on the tree and just after harvest. Some of the benefits of natural apple wax include:
- Moisture retention: Think of biting into an apple. You want it to be crisp and juicy. The apple’s skin helps trap the moisture in the cells of its flesh, and the wax on the skin offers an additional layer of protection. Without the wax, the apple will quickly dry out, becoming shriveled and unpalatable.
- Enhanced firmness: Natural apple wax keeps apples from shriveling up and losing all of their nutrients. Without the skin or wax, apples wouldn’t be crisp or firm how we like them.
- Mold growth inhibition: The natural wax coating also keeps mold from growing on the apple’s surface. Mold can be dangerous when consumed, and it can also kill the fruit. The natural apple wax keeps the fruit safe until it’s ready for harvest.
- Ripening delay: When a wax coating surrounds apples, the ripening and decay process slows. The apple is exposed to less outside air, so it doesn’t start to break down as soon. Protected by the wax, the apple can thrive on the tree and can continue to ripen after picking. This wax also allows apples to make it to the grocery store once picked, ensuring they’re of the highest quality for consumers.
- Bacterial protection: Just as the wax keeps mold from growing, it also protects the fruit from invasions by bacteria and other microorganisms. The microbes can’t penetrate the apple’s surface thanks to the wax. Without a waxy barrier, microorganisms could enter the fruit, which could damage the apple or make you sick when you bring it home to eat. The natural wax prevents this from happening, ensuring that apples live longer and are healthy for human consumption.
Why Companies Add Wax to Apples
The natural wax coating on apples does an excellent job of protecting the fruit, but it washes away easily after harvesting. Fruit producers typically wash the apples after picking them to remove any dust or debris, and the washing process also wipes away the wax. To extend the fruit’s life and to keep them looking shiny and attractive on supermarket shelves, many food producers recoat the fruits with a food-grade wax.
The food-grade wax used to coat apples, as well as other fruits and vegetables, is typically a type of emulsion made with carnauba wax. Other types of wax that might be used include shellac or beeswax.
The carnauba wax gives apples a shiny appearance and is indigestible by humans and would simply pass through your system untouched, similar to the way chewing gum would if accidentally swallowed. Once applied to the apples, the wax provides similar benefits as natural wax. It keeps the fruits from ripening too quickly, protects against bacteria and mold, and protects the fruit from damage. Added wax can also enhance the apples’ appearance. Just think of how shiny and appealing most fruits look when lined up in the produce aisle.
Why Wax Is Important
Fruits like apples predominately consist of water, and without a protective barrier, they’ll lose all their moisture through respiration and transpiration. Thankfully, apples have natural protection against moisture loss. As they grow, they’ll naturally produce their own waxy coating, sealing the space around them and preventing moisture from slipping out.
When apples are harvested, they’re washed to remove dirt and debris. This causes them to lose their natural wax barrier, meaning they’ll start losing their moisture and shrivel up quickly. To remedy this, fruit packers will apply a food-grade wax to sustain apples’ shelf life, allowing them to make it to markets and grocery stores so consumers can bring them home.
Fruit coatings also prevent various microorganisms from entering the fruit, keeping consumers safe from potentially harmful germs that could get them sick. While there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that apple wax is detrimental to your health, there’s no evidence to suggest this is the truth. Instead, natural apple wax and the food-grade wax applied later are meant to keep you safe and prevent apples from drying out before they make it to your local grocery store.
Apples don’t require a lot of wax to sustain their life span. In fact, one or two drops of wax are all it takes to coat a single apple. One pound of wax can cover over 100,000 apples. A little can go a long way to protect your apples.
Find Food-Grade Wax With Blended Waxes, Inc.
In need of waxes for food purposes, like coating cheese products or fruit? Blended Waxes has your solution. We’re a bulk wax manufacturer offering various wax products to suit various industries. You can browse our wax products or learn more about the types of waxes used for food here.