It’s easy to forget which fruits ripen after picking and which do not. Is that hard peach from the grocery store going to soften up and get sweeter on my kitchen counter? Will that sour orange improve with time? We’ve got the list to help you get the most from fruit and enjoy it at its peak.
For best storage tips, Fridge or Counter? lists the best place to keep fruits and veggies to maximize flavour and freshness.
Fruit Ripening Times
When fruit is ripe it has maximum sweetness and flavour. And the more we know about how our favourite fruits mature and ripen, the better we can indulge in peak deliciousness.
It’s easy to forget which fruits improve after picking and those that do not—I’m looking at you, oranges!
A sour orange is not going to suddenly sweeten off the tree. But a mature, firm plum can gradually morph into perfection after a few days on the counter.
The list below tells you which team each type of fruit is on. If you would like to download or print the list, click here.
Mature versus Ripe
One super helpful tip as a home fruit grower is to understand the importance of maturity as a plant milestone. Mature does not mean ripe. Maturity means the fruit is now capable of ripening because it has completed its physiologically development.
- Mature = physiologically ready to ripen
- Ripe = edible with peak flavour and texture
Only when the fruit on a plant reaches physiological maturity (and conditions are right), can the fruit ripen.
From there, some fruit can only ripen on the plant. Some can ripen on the plant and after picking. Some like avocados only ripen after picking. Hence, the confusion!
What is the Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable?
The easy-to-remember high school botany class definition is a vegetable contains no seeds.
- Fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant.
- Vegetables come from other parts.
You can read more about the differences between fruits and veggies here at Live Science here.
If you want to go down an interesting plant botany rabbit hole, have a look at Why Are Bananas Berries, But Strawberries Aren’t?
I’m sure you’ve heard the trick of putting unripe, mature fruit in a paper bag—perhaps with an apple or banana—to get it to ripen faster. And it’s true, it can work. But only for fruits that naturally produce ethylene gas on their own (and are therefore receptive to it), which are listed here.
Ethylene gas which helps convert starch into sugar both on the plant and after picking.
- Avocado matures on tree, but only ripens after picking.
- Tomato – optimum temperature for ripening tomatoes is 70 to 75ºF (21-23ºC) away from direct sunlight.
Ripening halts at 85ºF (30ºC) and above.
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This tip works for climacteric fruits (that give off ethylene gas which in turn speeds up ripening).
- To accelerate ripening, place any of these fruits in a paper or cotton bag (not plastic because it must be breathable).
- Ripe bananas give off good amounts of ethylene gas, but any fruits on this list work.
This means you can put a ripe banana in a bag with any other fruit on the list, and it will hasten ripening of that other fruit.
- Check daily and remove any spoiled fruit.
- Generally takes 3-5 days total.
That said, I’m sure you’ve experienced this too: some fruits just never ripen. Likely, they never reached physiological maturity before they were picked.
It’s ideal to get these fruits at a market where you can taste test them first because they’re not going to improve at home.
In some instances, these fruits may soften after picking as they begin to breakdown (rot, really), but flavour won’t improve.
- Pineapple may soften after picking but does not become sweeter.
- Strawberry – exogenous ethylene may induce secondary ripening processes, even though it’s not a climacteric fruit.
- Which Fruits Ripen After Picking | IAState.edu
- Do Apples Really Ripen Faster Next to Bananas? | Science Focus
- Ripening | Wikipedia
Knowing which fruits can ripen after picking—and which ones do not—will help make the best decisions when harvesting your garden. Better to keep the fruit on the plant if your only hope for ripening is extended warm weather in fall.
Taste tests at the farmer’s market will ensure you only purchase good-tasting non-climacteric fruits because they aren’t going to improve at home.
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~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛