Knowing when to harvest fruit depends on whether it’s a fruit that can only ripen on the plant or can also ripen after picking. The same goes for grocery store fruit. You can avoid food waste and disappointment if you know which fruits, even if still not fully ripe at the store, have a chance of ripening at home.
For best storage tips, Fridge or Counter? lists the best place to keep fruits and veggies to maximize flavor and freshness.
Will This Ripen?
If you want to avoid food waste it’s helpful to know when fruit ripens. Sometimes homegrown and store-bought fruit is picked while not quite ripe. This information tells you which fruits will ripen and improve after picking and those that will not.
- Overview – When is Fruit Ripe
- 25 Fruits That Can Ripen After Picking
- Tips to Accelerate Fruit Ripening
- Fruits That Do Not Ripen After Picking
When Is Fruit Ripe?
When fruit is ripe it has maximum sweetness and flavor. And the more we know about how and when our favorite fruits mature and ripen, the better harvesting and shopping decisions we can make.
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.
The Difference Between Mature and Ripe
One helpful tip when growing your own food 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.
This is where the days to maturity listed on seed packets and plant tags are so helpful.
- Mature = physiologically ready to ripen
- Ripe = edible with peak flavor 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!
25 Fruits that Can Ripen After Picking
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.
Winter squash can sweeten after picking
- Avocado matures on tree, but only ripens after picking.
- Tomato – See How to Ripen Tomatoes After Picking.
- Cantaloupe will soften but not sweeten after picking.
Tip to Accelerate Fruit Ripening
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 speed up the 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.
Fruits That Do Not Ripen After Picking
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 flavor 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.
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.
By this definition it’s easy to know which food we grow need pollinators and those that do not. Fruits do, vegetables don’t.
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?
Eco-Friendly Kitchen Ideas
Food waste is one big problem. If you also share my concern for the amount of plastic waste in the world, consider a shift to zero waste products.
- Reuse containers and plastics we already have.
- Bring reusable shopping and produce bags to stores.
- Look for sustainable options including silicone food bags and stainless steel food containers.
Use discount code melissa10 at EarthHero checkout for 10% off most items.
- 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 already ripe, good-tasting non-climacteric fruits because they aren’t going to improve at home.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛