Introduction: Ficus carica, commonly known as fig, is among the oldest types of fruit known to mankind. Drying is defined as a thermal process under controlled conditions in order to reduce the moisture in different types of food via evaporation. Edible films and coatings are used to enhance food quality by precluding oxidation and color changes in inappropriate conditions. Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) is thus widely used to improve food shelf life.
Materials and methods: All experiments were carried out on fresh edible green variety figs planted in the county of Neyriz Estahban. The figs were then immersed in the following solutions:
Distilled water as a control variable without coating; carboxy methyl cellulose (CMC) solution 1% containing 0.25 gr/L glycerol; and CMC solution 1% containing 0.25 gr/L glycerol and 2% ascorbic acid. Preliminary tests including average diameter, pH, total flavonoids content, and antioxidant activity were performed on the figs. The fruits were dried using a device designed by the authors. At 60 ̊C, 70 ̊C, and 80 ̊C, the airflow in the device was 0.5 m/s, 1.0 m/s, and 1.5 m/s, respectively. After drying the samples, secondary experiments were performed which, in addition to the previous tests, included texture analysis, water reabsorption, volume measurement, shrinkage, and color analysis. A total of 27 treatments were applied in 3 rounds. A full factorial design was employed for statistical analyses while average values were compared via Duncan’s test at 5% significance. Calculations were performed using SPSS 16.0.
Results & Discussion: Using CMC coating, shrinkage increased compared to the control sample. As airflow accelerates from 0.5 m/s to 1.5 m/s, higher levels of shrinkage are observed. This could be attributed to the drier surface of the fruit caused by faster airflow. Shrinkage increases with the speed of airflow going from 0.5 m/s to 1.5 m/s. This is because at higher speeds, the sample is dried in a shorter period of time and sustains less damage.
Water reabsorption was found to decrease with higher temperature and airflow. Weak reabsorption results from the breakdown of the internal structure of the fruits.
CMC-ascorbic acid, CMC, and the control sample had the highest to lowest levels of firmness, respectively. The acid was found to preserve the internal cellular structure and preserve its breakdown. Moreover, firmness increases with the drying temperature.
According to the results, the samples coated with CMC and CMC-ascorbic acid had lower pH compared to the control sample. Airflow speed and temperature are inversely and directly related to pH, respectively.
In the CMC-ascorbic acid treatment, antioxidant capacity increased compared to the other two treatments. This may be associated with ascorbic acid’s higher ability to act as a carrier of anti-browning agents. Also, higher levels of antioxidant behavior were observed with higher temperature as it causes faster drying. Moreover, the coating acts to preserve the antioxidant and eliminates the impact of temperature.
The highest amount of flavonoids was observed in the CMC-ascorbic acid treatment followed by the control sample and the CMC treatment. This is because the ascorbic acid serves to maintain the flavonoids in the samples. The flavonoid content increases with the airflow speed since the sample is dried in a shorter duration and the flavonoids are preserved. However, higher temperature reduces the flavonoid content since heat damages the pigment.
The application of the CMC coating (alone or in combination with ascorbic acid) increased luminance compared to the control sample due to the preventative effect of the edible coating on the oxidation of the pigments in the fig samples. With faster airflows, surface moisture begins to vary which causes the coating to become lighter with higher L*. An increase in the temperature leads to lower L* as the heat causes the carotenoids and chlorophyll to break down and form brown pigments in the samples.
Using the CMC-ascorbic acid coating increases a* in figs. Furthermore, as the temperature goes up from 60 ̊C, a* also increases.
The coated samples demonstrate higher levels of b* compared to the control sample. In fact, the coating preserves the pigments and thus maintains the yellow color of the figs. The value of b* is directly related to the speed of the airflow because it decreases drying time. As a result, the product undergoes less heat. Finally, higher temperature leads to higher b* in the dried figs.