LESSON 26

The Art of Fruit Ripening

Fruit is a reproductive organ of a tree that is defined as flesh around the seed. The flesh protects the seed and ripens together with it. When the seed is ripe enough to turn into a young plant, the flesh around it is ripe enough to be used, which is evident in the fact that the flesh is at that point: fragrant, bright in color, slightly soft to touch and sweet. This attracts fruit-eaters to the fruit, through which the seed is released and returned to the ground.

Before the seed is ripe enough to turn into a young plant, the flesh around it does not give off a tempting aroma, has a pale color, is hard to touch and starchy instead of sweet. Obviously, this is not the stage when the fruit is ready to be used. However, there is also a stage when the fruit is too soft, the color is too dark, and the smell is too strong and has an alcoholic taste.

Between these two stages is the stage when the fruit is perfectly ready for consumption. It is a true art to learn when a fruit is truly ripe, how to ripen unripe fruit, and how to preserve ripe fruit until use.


  • Knowing when fruit is truly ripe

The Cavendish banana variety, the most common banana variety on the market, is ripe when its yellow skin is spotted.

Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots…) are ripe when they are slightly soft to touch and give off a pleasant aroma.

Apples, pears and similar fruit varieties are ripe when they give away a characteristic smell, and for some varieties it is also considered that a slightly browned peel is a sign of ripeness.

Watermelon is ripe when it gives away a shallow sound when hit gently on its surface.

Tropical fruit with peel is generally ripe when the peel is slightly soft and darkened, and the fruit gives off a characteristic smell.


  • Ripening climacteric fruits

The list of climacteric fruit varieties from lesson 25 provides you with a list of fruit varieties that you can freely buy unripe and then ripen at home. The advantage of this feature is that you can buy fruit in advance and manipulate the ripening of the fruit in order to use them at a certain time with the following methods:

  • Different level shelves – take advantage of warmer air higher up in a room; the fruits higher up on shelves will ripen faster, and on the lower shelves will ripen more slowly.

    A practical example – place the ripe fruit at the lower levels and the unripe at the higher levels. First use the fruits from the lower levels, while the fruits from the higher levels are to be used later. As you begin to lower already ripe fruits from the higher to the lower shelves that have been already emptied, you place the new unripe fruit on the shelves at higher levels.

  • Cooler storage rooms are a great way to preserve the freshness of the fruit, slow down ripening as needed and cool the fruit if desired.

    A practical example – watermelons and melons can be conveniently stored in a cool storage room since due to their sizes it is easier to store them in a room instead of on a shelf, while maintaining their freshness and coolness.

  • Fridge – although fruits are generally stored at room temperature, the absence of heat is a great method for preserving already ripe fruits that you do not want to use yet. The lower temperature slows down the respiration of the fruit and the formation of ethylene, and thus its ripening.

    Be careful to take out the fruit from the fridge well in advance before using it if you know that eating cold food will only leave you feeling uncomfortably cold in your body. This note applies to colder weather, while in warmer days chilled fruit may feel better.

    Experiment with cooling different fruits and notice how cooling can degrade the taste in some fruits and improve it in others. Of course, individual taste plays a role in this.

  • Sunny windows / balconies – Exposing fruit to the sun contributes to its ripening.

  • A cardboard box or bag – climacteric fruit varieties continue to ripen after being picked thanks to the formation of the ethylene gas. Trapping ethylene accelerates the ripening of the fruit.

    A practical example – the bananas you planned for the next day are not ripe yet. Put them in a cardboard box or bag, preferably with some ripe fruit, and the next day you will have ripe, or at least riper, bananas.

  • Freezer – not a good option for fruit ripening. You might hear that you can ripen persimmons by placing them in the freezer to freeze and then let them thaw. However, this method does NOT ripen this fruit. It just causes its cell walls to crack open and degrades their taste significantly.

     

These described methods are a good start for developing your artistic ability to ripen fruit, because it is really a delicate art that is practiced and mastered through experience.

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