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More modes of ripening fit ready-to-eat trend

Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians and the Chinese had already deployed techniques to increase the ripening of fruit after harvest. Bananas are probably the most familiar fruit to ripen after harvest, other known fruits being mangos and avocados. In the United States, pears have been ripened for ten years, and a recent edition of Nature's Pride also announced its intention to supply ready-to-eat pears. There are a number of other products that are also eligible for ripening.

The result of ripening is largely that a product can be consumed earlier, but generally does not improve the flavour. Therefore, for optimal results only fully-grown fruits must be ripened. Still, much can go wrong in the process, with the quality suffering as a result. Messing up the temperatures, rushing through the process and incorrect humidity are among the mistakes that influence results.

Ripening and ready-to-eat
As said, for most varieties the ripening process can help advance the consumption date. Exception to the rule is the banana, which is harvested green, but will not ripen without help. For other products, such as cherries, peaches and plums, ripening is useless if the fruit is not harvested ready-to-eat.

Incidentally, one could also question the post-harvest ripening of certain products. For example, the ripening of pears would primarily affect the colour, and not necessarily the flavour. The ripened pears in the United States would be mainly transported to the colder regions, where ripening is difficult. The argument that it doesn’t always improve the taste is true, but current ready-to-eat trends do of course encourage the increase of ripe fruit on supermarket shelves.

Ethylene and climacteric fruit

Fruits eligible for ripening with ethylene are called climacteric varieties. This means that ethylene plays an important role in ripening. The fruit itself produces ethylene, but by exposing the fruit to this substance the fruit will generally ripen faster. Bananas, stonefruit and apples are listed as climacteric species. Citrus, strawberries and grapes fall under the non-climacteric species.

Treatment for harvest
Fruit is typically aged in a ripening room, but the pineapple has its own treatment. When still in the field, the plant is treated with ethylene a number of times, as this is said to be beneficial for blossoming. Just before the harvest, a pineapple is treated with ethylene once more, so the ripening process continues for a few days after harvesting.
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