All fruits emit ethylene gas in varying amounts. Do you remember the old saying “one bad apple spoils a pound”? It turns out to be true – apples accelerate the ripening of other fruits, so they should not be stored together.
Bananas, mangoes, kiwis, and other ethylene-producing fruits can cause premature spoilage and increase food waste.
Ethylene gas and fruit ripening
There is a reason why you should store apples or bananas separately from other fruits. These two produce large amounts of ethylene gas, the so-called “fruit ripening hormone”. According to the University of Maine, as they reach maturity, their ethylene levels increase.
Consumers don’t have the equipment and tools necessary to measure ethylene levels. What they can do is check the fruit for any signs of spoilage, such as odor, mold, mushy spots, or changes in color and appearance.
Also, remember that ethylene-producing fruits can also cause vegetables to ripen prematurely. It is recommended to store them separately from ethylene-sensitive vegetables and legumes, including:
- Wild asparagus
- Chili peppers
- Sweet peas
All fruits give off ethylene gas in varying amounts. Apples accelerate the ripening of other fruits because they produce ethylene in large quantities. According to a review published in the December 2015 issue of the journal Plant Physiology, plant hormones may also play a role. Abscisic acid (ABA), for example, speeds up the ripening process, while auxin, another plant hormone, promotes early fruit growth and development.
Do not store these fruits together
Now that you know about the role of ethylene gas in fruit ripening, it’s time to clean up your fridge. Not only will this help reduce food waste, but it will also ensure the safety of fruits and vegetables.
As mentioned earlier, the more ripe the fruit, the higher the level of ethylene in it. This compound can easily spread to other fruits and vegetables, causing them to ripen faster and ultimately rot. In addition, some plants are sprayed with ethylene gas before harvest to speed up ripening, according to the International Agri-Biotech Applications Acquisition Service.
Apples, pears, bananas, mangoes, plums, nectarines, melons, and other fruits release large amounts of ethylene. That’s why you should store them separately. For example, you can put apples in a medium-sized bag and bananas in another and put them in the fridge.
As practice shows, ethylene-producing fruits like the ones listed above should not be stored next to ethylene-sensitive foods, such as
- Lemons and limes
- Musk melon
Some fruits, such as apples, bananas, kiwis, and other major ethylene producers, are very sensitive to this compound. For this reason, for example, it is not recommended to store an apple and a banana together. Remember that storing ethylene-producing fruits in bags and sealed containers will trap the gas and accelerate ripening.
However, not all fruits and vegetables are sensitive to ethylene. Cherries, pineapples, garlic, grapefruit, and blueberries can be safely stored together or next to those that emit this gas. The same goes for white potatoes, but not sweet potatoes.
Another important aspect is the temperature of the refrigerator. To have an idea of where in your refrigerator to store perishable fruits to ensure the ideal temperature, it is useful to understand the typical temperature fluctuations in the average refrigerator. Usually, the coldest place is the bottom of the refrigerator, and the top shelf maintains the most constant temperature. The door is usually the warmest, as it is opened frequently and is closest to the outside air.
Overripe fruits should not be thrown away unless they have a mushy texture or signs of mold. For example, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits have hard peels. If you notice moldy spots or bruises on their skin, you can simply remove the peel and eat them. Just make sure their flesh is intact.