pectin, any of a group of white, amorphous, complex carbohydrates that occur in ripe fruits and certain vegetables. Fruits rich in pectin are the peach, apple, currant, and plum. Protopectin, present in unripe fruits, is converted to pectin as the fruit ripens. Pectin forms a colloidal solution in water and gels on cooling. When fruits are cooked with the correct amount of sugar, and when the acidity is optimum and the amount of pectin present is sufficient, jams and jellies can be made. In overripe fruits, the pectin becomes pectic acid, which does not form jelly with sugar solutions. Commercial preparations of pectin are available for jelly making. An indigestible, soluble fiber, pectin is a general intestinal regulator that is used in many medicinal preparations, especially as an antidiarrhea agent.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.