Irradiation offers grower-shippers different options than hot water baths, according to Arved Deecke, founder of the Benebion irradiation facility in Matehuala, Mexico.
“Heat destroys the ripening process of a mango so the ripening stagnates and mangoes can develop a condition called ‘shrunken shoulders’ during certain parts of the season. Irradiation doesn’t cause that at all,” Deecke said.
In addition, irradiated mangoes have a longer shelf life, according to Deecke.
“I’ve had seasoned buyers at supermarkets not believe the state of the fruit after a month in storage,” he said.
The sugar level of irradiated mangoes is also a common argument for the process.
“Tree-ripened mangoes can provide a honey-like fruit that’s very sweet, sometimes with a brix level of 18. It’s difficult to get a mango through a hot water bath with anything above a brix level of 14,” Deecke said.
However, perhaps one especially exciting aspect is that the process will allow for more mango varieties to be shipped to the U.S.
The manila mango, first brought to the U.S. a few years ago, is especially suited to irradiation because of its sensitive skin.
“It can’t withstand hot water dipping at all, so it’s an exciting variety to bring to the market in a larger scale,” Deecke said.
Off-sized mangoes are also popular new varieties.
“We’ve seen customers hit the market with baby mango varieties that are a perfect food for school lunches and other snacks,” Deecke said.
These small mangoes are similar in size to a prune, according to Deecke, and have a sweet taste and an insignificant stone. They are produced when the mango flower isn’t pollinated.
Before, these small fruits were either thrown away or sold only in local markets. With irradiation, they can be sold to U.S. markets.
Large mangoes are also only available through irradiation.
“Huge mangoes, like No. 4s and 5s, fall outside the protocol for hot water dipping, but people are loving these now,” Deecke said.