Ripening process of fruits

Not all fruits are created equal when it comes to their ripening process. Two distinct categories of fruit stand out: climacteric and non-climacteric. 

What is a climacteric fruit?

Climacteric fruits are those that continue to ripen after being harvested. These fruits naturally produce ethylene, a hormone that acts as a signal to trigger the ripening process. Ethylene stimulates the breakdown of starch into sugars and the conversion of acidic compounds into sweeter flavors. 

You probably experienced this ripening process by yourself with bananas, as they change their skin color to brown and the sweet smell intensifies after some days of storing them at home. The same happens with tomatoes, persimmon, stone fruit or kiwis for example. We measure the sugar content of those fruits and harvest them at their optimum level of ripeness.


Non-climacteric fruits

Unlike climacteric fruits, non-climacteric fruits do not continue to ripen after harvest. Oranges are a notable example. Once picked, oranges do not gain in sweetness or juiciness, and their flavor remains relatively constant. That’s why it’s essential to harvest them when they’re at their peak of ripeness, to enjoy their best flavor.

Their advantages

Each fruit category has its own distinct advantages. Climacteric fruits, such as tomatoes and kiwis, offer the flexibility of early harvesting, making it easier to transport them. They can also be bought slightly before their optimal state of consumption allowing consumers to adjust them to their preferred level of ripeness.

Non-climacteric fruits, such as oranges and pomegranates, are appreciated for their consistency. Consumers can expect consistent quality with every bite, without having to worry about over-ripening.

Tips for ripening them

Understanding how these two categories of fruit work can help us better select, store and get the most out of these fruits. Here are some tips for ripening them optimally:

  1. For climacteric fruits to ripen properly, they need the right environment. An ambient temperature of around 20°C is ideal for most climacteric fruits, although this may vary depending on the fruit. 
  2. To speed up ripening, you can isolate climacteric fruit in a paper bag or better in a tupperware. The bag traps the ethylene produced by the fruit, promoting faster ripening. You can add an apple or banana to other fruits to increase ethylene production.
  3. It’s essential to keep a close eye on climacteric fruits during the ripening process. When you notice that they have reached the desired ripeness based on their texture and flavor, place them in the refrigerator to further slow down the ripening process. This allows them to be stored longer at their optimum ripening point.

Ripening of climacteric fruits can vary according to factors such as variety, temperature and degree of ripeness at the time of purchase. Be patient and experiment to determine the ideal time to eat your fruit.

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