The ripening process of fruits

Anyone who has ever bought bananas knows this phenomenon: initially still partly green and unripe, they can develop into sweet and tasty energy suppliers within a few days. But what is the reason for this change? And does a change in appearance also bring with it a fundamental variation in the ingredients? Find out and more in this edition of the LiveFresh blog.

The ripening process

During the ripening process of fruit, the composition of the ingredients changes depending on the degree of ripeness. While unripe fruit still contains a lot of starch and gradually breaks down, the proportion of sugars such as glucose (grape sugar) and fructose increases as the ripening process progresses. In addition, fruits become more palatable as they gain sweetness due to the breakdown of tannins as they ripen.

In addition, secondary plant substances are formed towards the end of the ripening process, resulting in changes in the color of the fruit. The vitamin content is highest in ripe fruit and dietary fiber changes during ripening so that the fruit is softer and therefore more pleasant to enjoy.

Ethylene - a plant hormone with a major influence

Basically, a distinction can be made between two groups of fruit: post-ripening and non-post-ripening fruit. The type to which a fruit belongs depends on the plant hormone ethylene. This organic compound is produced by post-ripening fruits, thus influencing their own ripening and ageing processes. However, as ethylene is also released by the fruit into the environment, it also has an effect on other nearby plants. This can, for example, also affect the development of non-ripening fruit.

Non-ripening fruit - the time of harvest is crucial

Post-ripening fruits include apples, pears, apricots, plums, bananas, mangoes, avocados and kiwis. Berries and citrus fruits, on the other hand, do not ripen. They undergo a faster aging process due to the release of ethylene from the post-ripening fruit into the environment, which ultimately has a detrimental effect on quality.

The riper the fruit, the healthier it is.

Non-ripening fruit should always be harvested only when it has actually ripened on the plant. Otherwise, this not only has negative effects in terms of taste, but also on the ingredients of the fruit.

Colourful fruit bowls are nice - but not always recommendable

Post-ripening fruit can - as mentioned above - affect the quality of non-post-ripening fruit. Therefore, care should be taken when storing them together. Apples or bananas, for example, can be real fruit spoilers due to their strong secretion of ethylene and can accelerate the ripening process or cause wilting of both non-ripening fruit and specimens of their own kind.

However, this effect can also be exploited. Apples, for example, can accelerate the ripening process if placed with unripe fruit and turn sour produce into juicy fruit.

Conclusion: If you do not want to deliberately trigger a ripening process in your fruit bowl at home, you should not store ripening fruit varieties together with non-ripening fruit.