You may have heard about apples having wax on them, and it might make you wonder whether all apples have wax on them and whether it’s potentially harmful to eat something waxy. After all, nobody would nibble at a candle – so why would we eat a fruit with wax on it?
You might also be wondering how the wax gets there, and whether it’s a natural product or not. Many plants do protect their fruits with coatings, so is wax an aspect of that, or is it a result of interference by people?
Do apples have wax on them? Apples do produce a natural layer of wax to cover the fruit, but this is often added to by stores with a layer of artificial wax. You may be able to find unwaxed apples in your store, but these will still carry the natural wax coating that the plant itself adds to the apple’s surface.
What Natural Wax Do Apples Produce And Why?
Apple trees naturally coat their fruit with wax to protect it from the elements. This coating helps moisture to roll off, preventing the apple from rotting too quickly, and also protects it slightly from bumps and bashes. It may also stop it from drying out in the hot sun too fast.
Think about how quickly an apple deteriorates when cut open and left exposed to the air. The wax coating, as well as the peel, helps to prevent this oxidation and keeps the fruit good for longer.
This coating is made up of many different things, but particularly ursolic acid, which is highly water repellent and helps to keep the fruit dry. The acid is thought to be able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and it may have some other health benefits too. The wax also keeps the fruit firmer.
Often, the waxy coating is hard to see on pale fruits like apples, especially if you are unaware of it. You may notice it on dark plums more easily. Pretty much every fruit carries this kind of coating, as it makes it possible for the fruit to grow without being saturated or desiccated before it has a chance to form and ripen.
You can easily remove the wax coating by washing the fruit and giving it a gentle rub. This will also remove any dirt that has adhered to the coating, and makes the fruit ready to eat. There is nothing harmful in this wax, so it doesn’t matter if it isn’t washed away. However, once the coating is removed, the fruit’s lifespan will be much shorter.
Why Do We Wax Fruits Artificially?
Waxing artificially has been done for a long time, and it is done for two reasons: longevity and looks. Firstly, it helps to preserve the fruits, adding to their natural protection. It is an opportunity to increase the effectiveness of what nature has already done, and also add fungicides to prevent the skin from developing mold.
The wax coating can also slow down the ripening process to make it easier for stores to reduce product waste. This is very important for shipping products around the world. The coating has a further use in that it helps to protect the fruit from bumps and bruises while it is being shipped, increasing the chances of the skin remaining intact.
The second reason, looks, is the one that many of us think about when we come across artificially waxed fruits. Supermarket fruits do not look like the ones you might pick in your own garden or an orchard. The natural wax coating on a fruit does not make it glossy; it lends it a somewhat dull, powdery look.
If you compare a supermarket apple to a freshly picked one, you will see this difference very clearly. The picked apple may seem almost matte, with a dull skin and a dusty appearance. The supermarket apple will positively shine by comparison. You can actually make a natural wax shine by buffing it gently, but it won’t do so without being buffed.
This makes supermarket produce look very much more appealing, and it’s a trick used on all sorts of fruits to encourage shoppers to buy it. The wax may even be tinted to enhance the color of the fruit and cover up defects, making them look richer and tastier.
If you’ve ever wondered why store produce looks so much better than something you might pick yourself, it is down to the wax, and even pineapples are often waxed to improve their appearance.
Can That Wax Be Harmful?
The artificial wax used may depend on the supplier and the fruit, but usually, it is made from resins, carnauba, and beeswax, or sugar cane. These may be mixed to produce the desired consistency. It is important to note that the wax used to coat produce is always food grade, and should be safe for human consumption.
Both synthetic and natural waxes are used, but they are thought to be completely safe.
We are not capable of digesting wax, so it should pass through your system without being broken down at all. This means it should not do any harm to you, and essential it “doesn’t exist” as far as your digestive system is concerned, except as something to get rid of.
How Can You Remove Wax from Apples?
If you don’t want to risk eating the wax, you can get it off using vinegar. This will help to degrade the coating, and can then simply be rinsed from the surface of the fruit to avoid contaminating the flavor. It is best to do this when you are ready to use the fruit, so that the coating can continue to preserve it until then.
Remember that the coating protects your fruit and should help to preserve it and keep it fresh until you are ready to use it, so there is no point in getting rid of it until you want to use the fruit.
Apples do have wax on them, even if you pick them straight from the tree and eat them immediately. This natural wax helps them form without losing too much moisture or rotting in the rain, and wax is harmless to people.