Use of Edible Coating to Preserve Pecans at Room Temperature

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  • 1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory, Winter Haven, FL 33881
  • | 2 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Southeastern Tree Nut Research Laboratory, Byron, GA 31008

Unsaturated fatty acid oxidation results in rancid off-flavors in pecan [Carya illinoinensis(Wangenh.) K. Koch] kernels, which shortens shelf life under ambient conditions. For this reason kernels are stored under costly refrigeration. Edible coatings [hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC) and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), plus various additives] were used to restrict oxygen contact with kernel associated fats by acting as a barrier to gas exchange. Fresh pecans were acquired from orchards, air-dried, shelled, and treated with various coating formulations. The kernels were then drained, dried, and stored several months in open air or perforated zip-lock plastic bags at 20 to 25 °C and periodically evaluated by 18 to 20 sensory panelists using a 9-point hedonic scale for appearance, shine, off-flavor or overall flavor, and texture. Coated kernels generally scored lower for off-flavor, and higher for overall flavor. Preliminary coatings resulted in a less preferred appearance, but modifications to formulations of subsequent coatings resulted in either improved appearance or had no effect on appearance of kernels compared with uncoated control. Coatings with CMC imparted a shine to coated kernels, but did not generally affect texture. Hexanal accumulation, a good indicator of rancidity, of the homogenate of kernels stored at ambient temperatures for 5 and 9 months was lower in kernels coated with CMC than in the uncoated control, with CMC coatings including α-tocopherol being most effective. Thus, CMC-based coatings exhibit potential for extending the shelf life of pecan kernels.

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