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The Science of Fruit Salad

The Science of Fruit Salad

Fruit, sugar and lemon: preparing a fruit salad could seem easier than it is. Find out science secrets and trips to find out how to make a perfect fruit salad.

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It’s hard to think of anything more refreshing than a fruit salad: the queen of summer and seasonal fruits can now be found on our tables all year. This is one of the reasons why we have to be careful how to make fruit salad and serve it: the fact that it’s called “fruit salad” doesn’t automatically mean we can chop some fruits in a bowl. To prepare the real deal you need to keep a few important things in mind: a fruit salad is like a lab full of fragrances and tastes waiting to come out!

First you need to understand when a fruit is ripe. We all know the difference between an underdone melon and a good one, but few know how one turns into the other. It's all about ethylene, a gas formed when the ripening begins, even if the process changes according to the type of fruit. There are two paths: one is typical of climacteric fruits such as pears, bananas, melons, persimmon, apricots, apples, kiwis and peaches. A large quantity of ethylene oxide is produced at once converting amid into sugar and initiates the digestive process of the cellular walls. What does it mean? Fruit becomes sweet and tender, even after it’s picked from the original plant.

Non-climacteric fruits have a slower ethylene production and it stops when the fruit is picked. It happens with cherries, grapes, citrus, and blueberries. Amid doesn’t turn into sugar: sugar comes from the plant itself. This is why you should buy them when already ripe. Have you ever noticed that grapes don’t get sweeter with time, but rot? Now you know.

Sure to know how to make a great fruit salad? Here are some secrets and tricks:

- Choose your fruit according to how they mature. Apples for examples can be bought in advance and preserved for a long time. If you want sweet grapes you should eat them straight away in your salad!

- Another trick concerns sugar: it’s wrong to think you don’t need extra sugar if your fruit is mature. Sugar is hygroscopic, which means it attaches itself to water molecules, when you add sugar to your fruit salad, sugar will extract the juice from the fruit. This helps soften the fruit and makes it easier on the palate. The salad is juicy. Yes to sugar, but without going overboard: 50 grams for half a kg of fruit.

- Another issue: yes or no to lemon? Of course yes. Lemon has plenty of ascorbic acid, which helps preserve the fruit. If you marinate your salad for a few hours it will be softer. The acid will also enhance the flavors. Some prefer orange juice, which has less ascorbic acid (1% against 5%) and is sweeter.

To end, here is advice for a good presentation: use the same quantity of each fruit, cut the same size and shape, and be careful with colors. Try contrasts, something that helps flavors as well: an acid fruit and a sweet one. A climacteric fruit and a non-climacteric one. Use your good judgment: only seasonal fruits!

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