Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES -

and peak fla­vor is short­lived, and soon af­ter it, ev­ery­thing sub­sides and the fruit is on its way to be­com­ing over­ripe.


Once a cli­mac­teric fruit reaches a cer­tain ma­tu­rity, it can be plucked from the tree to fin­ish ripen­ing off the plant. (Not so for non­cli­mac­teric fruits.) What’s more, a ma­ture ap­ple or pear can be plucked from the tree and cooled to slow its reach­ing that cli­mac­teric stage. This is con­ve­nient for us: We can store ma­ture ap­ples and pears, so abun­dant now, in the re­frig­er­a­tor, and then take them out later to fin­ish ripen­ing.

All this as­sumes, of course, that the fruit was picked when truly ma­ture. An ap­ple or pear picked too early will never ripen.


Any cli­mac­teric fruit that is about to ripen is spew­ing out not only car­bon This un­dated photo shows Seckel pears be­ing har­vested in New Paltz, N.Y. Seckel, like other Euro­pean pears, can be picked ma­ture to fin­ish ripen­ing off the plant. diox­ide but also a sim­ple gas called eth­yl­ene. The more eth­yl­ene to which the fruit is ex­posed, the more heav­ily it breathes, speed­ing ripen­ing. And the more heav­ily it breathes, the more eth­yl­ene it gives off. And so on.

So you can re­tard or pro­mote ripen­ing by let­ting eth­yl­ene es­cape or by con­tain­ing it. Bagging fruit, for ex­am­ple, will con­tain the eth­yl­ene. Dam­age from bruis­ing and pests, in­ci­den­tally, also pro­motes eth­yl­ene evo­lu­tion, speed­ing ripen­ing and, af­ter that, rot­ting. That’s why an ap­ple is of­ten red­der around a point of dam­age, and why “one rot­ten ap­ple spoils the bar­rel.”

Another way to ma­nip­u­late ripen­ing is to add eth­yl­ene from another source. Burn­ing re­leases eth­yl­ene. This was first re­al­ized when pineap­ple plants fruited sooner the closer they were to the ends of the fields where su­gar-cane waste was be­ing burned. Fruit grow­ers have sprays which pro­duce the same ef­fect. Even pick­ing a fruit speeds up eth­yl­ene pro­duc­tion by re­leas­ing the hold of an eth­yl­ene in­hibitor present in plant leaves.

Some cli­mac­teric fruits, such as pear and av­o­cado, can­not ripen to gus­ta­tory per­fec­tion on the tree. And ripen­ing a pear to per­fec­tion takes al­most as much skill as growing it on the tree. You must pick the fruit at the ap­pro­pri­ate, pre-ripe stage and then, for some pears at least, chill the fruit for a few weeks. Af­ter that, the fruits ripen best in a room that is cool (about 65 de­grees) and not too dry. It is some trou­ble, but plant a Mag­ness or Comice pear tree, pick the fruit at the right mo­ment, ripen them care­fully, and your taste buds will thank you.


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