Sunday, February 26, 2012

Close to the wax

Many thanks to Eric Curry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for today's photo of an apple.

Did you recognize it? Since the zoom on Eric's camera—an electron microscope—is more powerful than mine, we are actually looking at platelets of the natural wax that comprise the cuticle, the outer part of the peel.

Eric has been studying apple cuticle for the past decade. He's a research plant physiologist at the USDA's facility in Wenatchee, Washington, in the heart of apple country.

The above image shows a view that is a bit more than 20 nanometers wide. A nanometer (or millimicron) is a billionth of a meter. The little ruler in the legend shows the width of 5 nanometers, and the exact scale of magnification depends on how you view this blog.

I have already written about artificial waxes and varnishes that growers and wholesalers often apply to apples, especially when washing strips natural waxes away. Generally apples direct from the farmer, at orchard, farmstand, or farmers' market, are natural-wax only.

I am sure that this photo, part of a series, tells Eric some revealing fact about apples. To me it is just a marvelous reminder that things are not what they seem.

For more of this sort of thing, the USDA hosts some of Eric's other photos.


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