How many fruits can you list

First bitter, then sweet - this is how our fruits and vegetables ripen

In order for us to be edible, fruits and vegetables have to ripen. The path from flower to ripe fruiting body is marked by many changes. But what actually happens when a fruit ripens?

What happens when a fruit ripens?

During the ripening phase, the fruit bodies are changed significantly, often changing their entire composition of the ingredients. Many green, unripe fruits contain a lot of starch. As they ripen, this starch content drops continuously. In return, their content of grape sugar (glucose), fructose and sucrose increases. In many cases, tannins are also broken down in the fruits. The previously sour or bitter fruits become sweeter and tastier. In addition, the dietary fiber in the food changes as it ripens. This makes fruits and vegetables softer and more pleasant to enjoy.

Vitamins and phytochemicals only at the end of ripening

At the end of the ripening process, the secondary plant substances are formed. This can be seen, for example, from the fact that something is now also changing in terms of color. The chlorophyll, the green leaf pigment, is converted and replaced by other coloring substances. In the case of tomatoes, for. E.g. the coloring and secondary plant substance lycopene, carotenoids have the effect on citrus fruits and mangoes.

The vitamin content in fruit and vegetables also increases towards the end of the ripening phase. When fully developed, it is highest! Here you inevitably come across a problem with our industrially produced food: Often fruits and vegetables are harvested much too early, stored in a dark and cool place and then have to be transported over long distances. As a result, the food can no longer fully develop its full vitamin content. It should therefore be ensured that above all fully ripe fruit and vegetables - ideally from organically controlled cultivation - are consumed, since here not only the freedom from pesticides, but also the highest possible vitamin content is guaranteed. If fruits and vegetables are stored for a long time, their vitamin content unfortunately decreases again.

Post-ripening and non-ripening fruits

But ripening is not the same everywhere. There are fruits and vegetables that can still ripen a little after the harvest. They are often harvested when they have reached what is known as "picking maturity". Ripe for picking means that they are so developed on the plant that they ripen after harvest to the point that they are edible. Fruit and vegetables that ripen later are apples, pears, quinces, apricots, peaches, plums, blueberries, but also tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes, avocados, papayas and kiwis. In addition, tomatoes are among the foods that ripen later.

Nevertheless, the content of vitamins and phytochemicals in post-ripened fruit and vegetables is not comparable to that in foods that are fully ripe on the plant. The fruits are best harvested when fully ripe from the mother plant and processed or consumed immediately.

Foods that do not ripen include cherries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, pineapples, citrus fruits and cucumbers, peppers, eggplants. They should only be harvested when they have really matured on the plant. If they are harvested too early, they will lack flavor and numerous healthy ingredients.

A ripening gas causes a dispute in the fruit basket

Numerous fruits - especially species that ripen later - use the gaseous messenger substance ethylene to control their ripening. On the one hand, the plant hormone sets the ripening processes in motion, but is also released into the environment. This can cause the neighboring fruit or vegetables to ripen too quickly, which is often not desired. Ethylene has a negative influence on varieties that do not ripen afterwards; they are very sensitive to the ripening gas.

Therefore, when storing fruit and vegetables, the following motto applies: Do not store all of your fruit (or vegetables) in one place. Even if a colorful fruit basket looks nice, tomatoes, apples, apricots, nectarines or bananas can be real fruit and vegetable spoilers due to their strong release of ethylene, as they trigger wilting processes.

On the other hand, you can also make use of the ethylene effect: If you put a few apples with unripe fruit, for example bananas, kiwis, pears or avocados, you can accelerate ripening. After a short time, the sour immaturity turns into juicy enjoyment.

Photo credit: Floydine /