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This Is Why Your Produce Keeps Going Bad Before You Can Eat It

Fruits and vegetables are in mesh produce bags on a kitchen counter.

Have you ever found yourself in a battle against time with your fresh produce? It might seem like your favorite fruits and veggies have a secret agenda to become spoiled produce before you can savor them.

Battle no more! We’re about to unveil the mischievous accomplice responsible for your produce’s speedy demise: ethylene.

Ethylene is a natural plant hormone released as a gas. It is both the hero and the villain in the world of produce. This sneaky gas is released by certain fruits and vegetables as they ripen, acting as a communication tool between them. It’s the chemical signal that says, “Hey, it’s time to ripen!”

The downside of ethylene is that it can cause a domino effect, speeding up the ripening process of nearby fruits and vegetables. Picture it as a contagious enthusiasm for produce ripening (or decaying). When left unchecked, it makes peaches extra fuzzy, lettuce limp, and apples mushy.

Understanding the ethylene compatibility of different produce can help you keep your fruits and vegetables good longer. Some fruits produce a lot of ethylene, some are highly sensitive to ethylene, and others don’t get affected by it much either way.

It’s best not to store your high-producing ethylene produce (like apples) next to your ethylene-sensitive produce (like berries). By doing this, you can help manage your produce’s ripening schedule.

Remember: you can extend the life of some of your produce by storing your gassiest, most sensitive produce in the fridge.

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