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Spain: Method to extend shelf life of artichoke hearts discovered

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-06-28  Views: 5
Core Tip: The Department of Agricultural Chemistry of the University of Murcia has found a way to extend the shelf life of fresh artichoke hearts by up to 15, or even 20 days by means of minimum processing techniques based on washing, cutting and packaging to make
The Department of Agricultural Chemistry of the University of Murcia has found a way to extend the shelf life of fresh artichoke hearts by up to 15, or even 20 days by means of minimum processing techniques based on washing, cutting and packaging to make things easier for the consumer.

This research, published in the Journal of Food Protection, has made it possible for fresh artichokes to be treated through a process of cutting, slicing and treatment with natural antioxidants. The product is then packaged in a modified atmosphere, turning it into a new ready-to-eat product which comes to join other fresh cut products ready for the consumption, such as fresh salads. "Consumers increasingly demand foods that are easier to prepare, or which are almost ready for consumption or can be used in an easy way," explains the researcher Nuria García Martínez.

The problem posed by artichokes is that the product is tedious to handle and quickly browns when cut. This browning occurs when enzymes, such as polyphenoloxidases, come into contact with substrates of a phenolic nature in the presence of oxygen.

Preventing that artichoke cut into thin slices from browning is complicated. In addition to controlling the browning, other aspects studied include the microbiological safety and the sensory aspects, such as the product's taste or texture, so that they can't be told apart from fresh vegetables.

"We pack the artichoke with a very low amount of oxygen, which is one of the factors that causes browning. Moreover, preventing the appearance of fermenting smells has been a challenge," explains García Martínez. The pH is another of the factors involved. "We need to lower the pH to prevent browning, as that keeps enzyme activity and microbial proliferation in check."

Research on new formats of fresh-cut artichokes will continue in order to ensure the supply of a product with a long shelf life that is easy to prepare, without the need for complex processing facilities.
 
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