It happens all the time. You come home from the grocery store and start emptying your bags on the counter, putting boxes and jars in the cabinets. Then you start on the produce, piling your fruit bowl high with delicious apples and bananas - maybe even a mango.
A day or two later, you come into the kitchen and notice that the fruit bowl is looking, well, less appetizing. The wonderful fruit you brought is now mushy and soft and you're wondering why you spend money on fruit that goes bad before you get a chance to eat it.
There's some good news, and there's some bad news.
The bad news is that you are responsible for the dismal state of your fruit and wallet. The good news is you're about to learn why, and what you can to do to stop it.
Ethylene is a hydrocarbon gas that is present in aging and rotting reactions in plants. There's a whole lot of science behind Ethylene and what it does on the molecular level, but we can keep it simple: Ethylene regulates plant ripening. Some fruit and veggies produce a lot of the Ethylene - like apples, while other produce is particular sensitive to the effect of the ripening hormone.
Even if you've never heard of Ethylene until now, you probably have some experience with it. If you've ever put avocados or other fruit into a brown paper bag to help it ripen faster, you're working with Etyhlene. You may also know that you never store onions and potatoes together. Once again, that's thanks to Ethylene.
Make Ethylene Work For You
To get the most of your produce, it's important to know which common fruits and veggies produce a lot of ethylene, and which ones are particularly reactive to it. Once you know that, you can make smarter decisions on how to store your food.
Fruits that are high producers of Ethylene include: apples, avocados, tomatoes, peaches, plums, melons, mangoes, kiwis, and bananas.
Foods that don't produce a lot of the gas, but are very sensitive to its presence are: Asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, Brussel sprouts, green beans, broccoli, and lettuce.
Foods that are reactive to the gas are best stored away from those that produce a lot of it, and in areas where there is a lot of ventilation. That means the Ethylene produced isn't trapped at a higher concentration.
Things like apples and tomatoes, which produce a lot of the gas, can also be used to help speed the ripening process of those that produce less. For instance, putting an apple in a bag with less-ripe bananas will help the bananas ripen quicker.
Now that you're armed with the knowledge you need to keep your fruit fresh, head out to the grocery store and buy produce with abandon! You won't have to throw away your hard earned money or tasty peaches ever again.