How to Ripen Fruits and Vegetables Using Ethylene?

ethylene on tomatoes“Putting a ripe apple or two in with a bowl of tomatoes and covering lightly soon ripens the tomatoes. The cover is to first keep the gas in the bowl and second to keep fruit flies out.”

We received this helpful tip from our customer Ernest Barkes of North Saanich, BC, Canada. His knowledge of ethylene, the gas released from apples that helps ripen other fruits and vegetables, comes from southern Ontario over 70 years ago when the gas was not available.

What is Ethylene?

Ethylene is a naturally occurring plant hormone that assists the growth, ripening and deterioration of fruits, vegetables, and all other plants.

While all plants produce ethylene, some produce much more than others, and can be used as an external source of ethylene for other plants. This is the basis of Ernest’s great tip.

Different fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers have different reactions to ethylene. Some respond by ripening evenly, and others become damaged as their aging process is accelerated.

Fruits and veggies that produce large amounts of ethylene include:

  • Apples
  • Avocadoes
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Peaches
  • Bananas

Those fruits should be kept away from plants that are sensitive to ethylene, which include:

  • Cauliflower
  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage

The Effect of Ethylene on Ripening

External sources of ethylene can help trigger ripening in a range of fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, mangos, apples and avocadoes.

Ripening is the last stage of growth, and is initiated by many chemical changes, particularly an increase in ethylene. Once the fruit’s quantity of ethylene rises to a certain amount, the ripening stage begins. Once a fruit or vegetable begins to ripen, it cannot stop, though cold temperatures can slow the process.

External sources of ethylene, such as an apple in a bowl of tomatoes, can hasten the initiation of the ripening process. And it’s still natural!

If you have any interesting tips about growing vegetables, we’d love to hear them! Send us an email, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter.

Annette (58 Posts)

Annette Welsford has a partial degree in Horticulture and a Post Graduate Certificate in marketing. Having lived in the cold, temperate and hot parts of Australia and the UK, she has gained experience over the years with gardening in a variety of climates. Annette also worked for a fertilizer company where she was responsible for developing, editing and publishing a range of technical manuals on nutrition and fungal diseases for a wide range of horticultural crops including tomatoes. Annette is Managing Director of Commonsense Marketing Pty Ltd, a publishing and marketing company, responsible for the editing, design and worldwide marketing of the How to Grow books, and other products. Commonsense Marketing also provides expert offline and online marketing consulting and design services to a variety of small to medium sized businesses.


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