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It's somewhat well-known that applying an acidic solution to sliced apples prevents them from turning brown as quickly. I believe that the primary motivation to prevent the "browning" is aesthetic: slightly brown apples don't appear as appetizing as bright white ones.

Is there any other reason to do this?


This page on the subject of apple-browning states:

When an apple is cut, it releases an enzyme called polyphenol oxydase. This copper-based compound breaks down in the presence of oxygen, acting both as an antibacterial agent and as a deterrent to animals. This is what forms the brown coating on the apple.

The Wikipedia entry for food browning refers to the browning of apples as "undesirable" but is without qualification, and the entry for polyphenol oxidase says nothing about its properties other than colour, and I couldn't find any additional explanation of the "antibacterial" properties of browned apples, and what that actually means.


My question is two-fold:

  1. Is apple-browning undesirable for any non-aesthetic reason, such as affecting taste, or any property other than colour?
  2. When people apply a solution to apples to make them "last longer", how should I read this? Does this simply mean "will brown slower", or is there something else to it?
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5 Answers 5

In addition to the brown color they also become mushy and have a bruised flavor. Not a nice thing.

I don't know anything about the brown being antibacterial but I don't really care because I don't expect cut apples to stay around long enough to harbor bacteria.

An acidic solution will prevent browning. I toss mine with dilute lemon juice. They will last for days in the fridge without browning. I've not done an experiment to see how long it will take them to actually spoil.

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I found that when I dry apple slices (usually early dessert apples) that there is no noticeable difference in the finished product - except of course the colour. I went so far as to have people blind-test them, nobody could tell between acid-treated and "natural" dried apples with statistical significance.

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Interesting. I assume you dehydrate them immediately after slicing? Does the time make a difference? –  Sobachatina May 20 '11 at 12:24
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+1 for doing science! –  Jefromi May 20 '11 at 16:20

If I want to keep cut apples from turning brown (e.g. if I'm packing them in a container in my daughter's lunch), I put a small amount of Vitamin C crystals (ascorbic acid) in. This will actually reverse the oxidation, turning slightly brown apple chunks white/yellow again. On the odd occasion when the apples didn't get eaten for a few days, they've tasted fine to me.

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As Ward mentioned, and some of the other answers hint at, apples turn brown due to oxidation. The antioxidants contained in them are spent.

If you want to eat more antioxidants for dietary reasons, you should consider adding acid to the apples.

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Like some of the other posters have said, I also find that cut apples that have started to brown have a slightly altered taste and texture (bruised flavor and mealy texture). In addition to aesthetics, I actually like the taste of fresh cut apples with fresh lemon juice either squeezed on or by taking a lemon wedge and rubbing it onto the apple slices. Plus, as others have said, citrus adds vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonoids to your diet.

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