Ethylene – Does one bad apple spoil the bunch?

Improper storage of some whole fresh fruits and vegetables may cause deterioration of both their flavor and nutrition value.

Ethylene serves as a hormone in plants – It acts at trace levels throughout the life of the plant by stimulating or regulating the ripening of fruit, the opening of flowers, and the abscission (or shedding) of leaves. Controlling ethylene gas after picking will extend the life cycle of your commodity-allowing them to be held for a much a longer period of time. While refrigeration & humidity slow decay, they don’t halt the production of harmful ethylene gas.

Ethylene has been used in practice since the ancient Egyptians, who would gash figs in order to stimulate ripening (wounding stimulates ethylene production by plant tissues). The ancient Chinese would burn incense in closed rooms to enhance the ripening of pears. Products sensitive to ethylene gas, such as broccoli and bananas, will spoil quickly if stored in the same areas as avocados, melons, and apples, which are ethylene producers. One good apple in a bag of potatoes will keep the potatoes from sprouting. Also, one bad apple (punctured or rotten) in a bag or basket of apples will cause the others to spoil faster from the large amount of ethylene gas being produced by the bad apple.

Ethylene gas can be used to riped your produce faster too, take bananas for example – putting bananas in a paper bag and closing it off will cause the bananas to ripen faster due to the Ethylene gas released and contained.

Creators of Ethylene Gas
Apples, apricots, avocados, ripening bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, citrus fruit (not grapefruit), cranberries, figs, guavas, grapes, green onions, honeydew, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, melons, mushrooms, nectarines, okra, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peppers, persimmons, pineapple, plantains, plums, potatoes, prunes, quinces, tomatoes and watermelon.

Ethylene sensitive foods
Asparagus, unripe bananas broccoli, Brussels sprouts, blackberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, cut flowers, eggplant, endive, escarole, florist greens, green beans, garlic, kale, kiwi fruit, leafy greens, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, potatoes, potted plants, raspberries, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet potatoes, watercress and yams.

So it is best to sort and store your food separately. Learn more about Food Storage here.

What do you think?