The shelf life of fresh vegetables & fruits might be a challenge for anybody who does not intend to utilize all of them as soon as they get home from the grocery shop. We’ve all been in that situation.
You go to the grocery store and buy a variety of nutritious food, but by the time you get around to eating it, part of it has gone rotten. The good news is that urban agriculture, among other things, may help us tackle this problem.
What Causes Produce to Have a Shorter Shelf Life?
If you’ve ever had a home garden, you’ve probably noticed that the fruits and vegetables you grow tend to survive far longer than those you buy at the supermarket. Similarly, food from farmer markets has a far longer shelf life. What is causing this discrepancy?
Time spent in Transportation
It’s a simple equation: (product shelf life) – (time in transportation from farm to market) = (time until that product will go bad). While this is not the whole tale, it is an excellent place to start. Looking at this equation alone, the simplest method to increase product shelf life is to ensure it spends less time in transit. Despite this, many of our favorite meals travel around the world to reach us, even if they are the same things that we formerly grew locally.
The concept of “food miles” has recently received a lot of attention. The fact is that many of the foods at your local grocery store came from across the country or the other side of the world. Local foods, on the other hand, have extended shelf lives and are frequently of higher quality, as well as the advantage of using significantly fewer fossil fuels in transit.
Exposure to Ethylene
Ethylene is a silent crop killer that several people are unaware of. The fact is that ethylene gas occurs naturally and is colorless and odorless. It is produced by many fruits and vegetables as they grow and ripen. Unfortunately, it also causes other fruits and vegetables to mature faster, severely shortening their shelf lives.
Consider a large warehouse full of fruit that includes a few crates of overripe bananas. The bananas begin to produce more ethylene, which spreads the gas via the air to other surrounding crops. Before you realize it, the cauliflower and cabbage stored nearby have gone bad as well. As a result, it spreads throughout the structure. Potatoes begin to sprout, broccoli yellows, carrots turn bitter, and so forth. This chain reaction will further worsen when more crops begin to emit their ethylene into the air. As a result, product warehouse managers must employ ethylene control methods, which are not perfect.
Changes in Temperature
Fruits and vegetables remain the longest when kept at low temperatures and in high humidity. This keeps decay, bacteria, and fungus at bay and inhibits ripening. Crops should be stored at a somewhat steady temperature to ensure they remain fresh and contaminant-free. Temperature changes during transit and storage can cause items to age faster and promote the formation of harmful mold spores and bacteria.
Handling and Physical damage
Finally, the more fruits and vegetables that are handled, the more likely they are to be harmed physically. Jostling is common in transportation and can cause damage that leads to deterioration and decomposition. Even the vibrations of the vehicle in movement might be destructive. According to an ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Program research, this bruising can cause moisture loss of up to 400%.
Role of Urban Agriculture in Helping Produce to Last Longer
The world is getting increasingly urbanized. People are increasingly flocking to large cities, away from the rural regions where food is typically raised. This only increases the need to transport products across long areas to feed the world’s rising population. Unfortunately, long-distance transportation significantly reduces the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables, resulting in increased food waste.
There are several advantages to urban agriculture, not the least of which is the ability to grow fresh fruits and vegetables locally rather than shipping them across the nation and around the world. Less time between the farm and the consumer means less bruise, less exposure to temperature changes, and less ethylene buildup in storage. In summary, food grows close to where it will be consumed, allowing it to survive much longer.