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How Bubble Wrap Explains Crisp and Mealy Apples

In our unit of pressure, we learned about the difference between a mealy and crisp fruit or vegetable. It turns out that bubble wrap is a good analogy. 

From Smith et al (2003) Postharvest physiology and pathology of vegetables.

We already know that water inside the vacuole of a plant cell and the cell wall work together to keep the cell firm and rigid. When cells are full of water, a force, such as your bite, will puncture the cells and break open individual cells. That is when you experience the release of juices that accompany biting down on a crisp apple. On the other hand, sometimes the network of polysaccharides between cells becomes weak, and when force is applied, the cells separate from each rather than are cleanly punctured through. This is when we encounter the classic mealy apple. With time, the polysaccharide “glue” that binds cells to each other begin to degrade. The cells also begin to lose water. This is why apples that have been stored incorrectly for long periods of time often turn mealy.

Take bubble wrap as an analogy. When the bubbles in bubble wrap are sealed and full of air, it is very easy to get that satisfying “Pop!” when you puncture the bubble. However, when the bubbles are not fully inflated or have already been punctured, then it is much harder to pierce another hole in the same bubble.

Gary Menes’ Veggie Platter

This week’s lecturer is Gary Menes. He is the chef at Le Comptoir, a pop-up restaurant at Tiara Café in LA. 

Gary Menes and sous-chef Wesley Avila weighed in on our topic of the week, “Pressure,” with their version of the veggie platter.  There were 20-odd vegetables and fruits present, including pickled onions, the season’s first cherries, pickled orange segments, Okinawan sweet potato, and quickly sautéed fava beans.

Gary packed cherries in a bag and used a cryovac machine to suck out all the air in the bag. The resultant vacuum compresses and bruises the cherries, changing their texture and flavor in the process.

Want to make quick-pickled onion petals? Slice the onion in quarters or halves and peel apart the layers to get petals. Heat up a quick-pickling solution of 3 parts water : 2 parts red wine vinegar : 1 part sugar. Once hot, submerge the petals and let rest for 30 minutes.