Every autumn, along with sweaters, pumpkin spice, cozy soups and comforting recipes, we’ve got apples on our minds. Trips to the market yield a bounty of apple varieties, and when scanning through the options, it’s hard not to notice that some of them are covered with little speckles. These tiny little spots are most evident on varieties like Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples, but if you look closely, just about all apples have them. So what are those little specks, exactly, and what do they do?
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They’re actually called lenticels, and you can also find them on pears, potatoes, mangoes and avocados as well as many other fruits and vegetables and even trees. According to Science Direct, lenticels are essentially pores; they let oxygen into the fruit while allowing carbon dioxide and water vapor out. These fruits are otherwise airtight, so lenticels play a crucial role in cellular respiration.
If all this sounds a little familiar to you, that’s because humans essentially do the same thing — take in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide. So even though they don’t have lungs, you can say that plants breathe too.
So the next time you shop for apples, take a moment to appreciate how it’s those little speckles that help them breathe (and you can give your kid a crash course on organic chemistry while you’re at it). And when you’re done, you can stock up on some lesser-known and under-appreciated apple varieties.