why do apples turn brown?

Categories Curiously Simple


Love an apple? Pink Lady? Gala? Cox? Fuji? Braeburn? We like our apples in the Medlicott household. Ever since Hudson had a couple of teeth, I would offer him a whole apple if I needed to appease his whining. In the grocery store, he begged to eat an apple while we browsed. He would eat it right down the seeds. Isaiah loves the thought of apples, but since I find spit up apple all over the house each time he eats one, I have stopped giving him them. Sticking with apple juice for him. Dave will have an apple for lunch. And I will easily down 2-3 peanut butter smothered apples a day. We love our apples.

Our apple consumption has increased since our sweet, elderly neighbours have thought it best to provide us with a bag of apples and bananas each week, along with a box of cereal, and sometimes a tub of peanut butter. Could you ask for better neighbours?

Yesterday, Hudson had eaten half his apple and saved the rest for after school. But when he got home after a paint filled day at nursery, he was hesitant to eat his dirty apple. Why had I gotten it dirty? Why had I not kept it safe? Why is it brown? I had to find a way to explain to him that his apple was not dirty, but had turned a dirty colour because air had gotten to it. My answer sucked, frankly. He didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about and I ended up eating the rest of the apple to avoid the waste of throwing it away (typical Lauren move).

So why does an apple turn brown when exposed to the air? I plumbed the depths of You Tube and browsed scientific articles for Elementary school children to find out. Follow the story below for a brief explanation based on a typical morning here in our household.

After consuming three bowls of cereal for breakfast at 5am in an effort to wake up with a screaming 20 month old child, you decide to opt for fruit instead of that fourth bowl of Honey Nut Cornflakes calling your name. The bananas are still green. Gross. The pears are hard as rock. And the oranges have rotted. You are left with the ever faithful apple. Good old apples. You grab a chopping board and start cutting the apple to put onto a little plate in an effort to appear civilized. Almost immediately, your well presented apples turn a dingy tint of brown. So much for an appealing visual presentation. Peanut Butter smothered on top solves the issue and the apple is gone within minutes.

What happened when you cut into that apple? And why did Hudson’s half-eaten apple not keep it’s crisp whiteness after having been left till after school?

  1. The apple cells were damaged. When you sliced or bit into that apple, it was damaged and the cells inside were exposed to oxygen.
  2. An enzyme (a substance produced by living things that acts as a catalyst for a reaction to keep the living thing alive) called Tyrosinase reacted to the Oxygen. .
  3. The above reaction changed Phenol (a molecule in the apple cell) into melanin. And this melanin has a brownish tint, turning the surface that had been exposed to oxygen, brown.

And that is the process I will try to explain to Hudson next time he accuses me of dirtying his apple. Wish me luck?

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