The avocado experts at Apeel have pulled together some tips and tricks inspired by nature to help you speed up or slow down the ripening of your avocado. No time machine needed!
Avocados are climacteric fruits, meaning they ripen after harvest, unlike non-climacteric fruits, like strawberries, that ripen before harvest. Once picked from the tree, they keep respiring (aka breathing – yes, your avocado is breathing!) and release a hormone called ethylene, which tells the fruit to kick off all the biochemical processes that lead to ripening.
A lot is going on inside the avo during this time: cell walls break down (that’s why the flesh gets softer) and chlorophyll breaks down (that’s why the skin gets darker). This is when the magic happens: the true flavor of the fruit develops.
Although this process might sound totally out of your control, it isn’t! That’s because controlling the climate of your climacteric fruit has a big impact on the rate at which it ripens.
Why does putting the avocado in a paper bag make it ripen faster?
The brown paper bag, or any enclosed space, traps the ethylene close to the avocado. Warm, ethylene-rich environments trigger the release of even more ethylene, which accelerates the ripening process. Store it in a warmer corner of your kitchen, perhaps near the window or next to the heater, and speed it up even more! Just don’t put it in the microwave or oven, that’s too hot for your avo to handle.
Why does adding a banana or other avocados to the bag make it ripen even faster?
Climacteric fruits produce most of their ethylene gas after harvest and can ripen faster when exposed to other fruit that is also producing ethylene. If you have them, throw some other climacteric fruits into the bag to trap and immerse the avocado in this natural ethylene heaven. Avocados, bananas, apples, plums, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and blackberries are all climacteric fruits and will ripen faster when kept near each other. Non-climacteric fruits, like oranges, strawberries, and grapes, emit a low, steady supply of ethylene, and are considerably more stable around other fruits.
How do you slow down the ripening of an avocado?
If your avocados are on the road to ripeness faster than you want them to be, put them in the fridge and keep them away from other climacteric fruits. Lowering the temperature of a system (aka the avocado and all its internal processes associated with ripening) will slow down the rate at which all chemical reactions occur. Putting avocados in the freezer will halt the ripening process altogether.
If you have already sliced into an avocado, what can you do to keep the unused part fresh?
If you have a cut avocado that you want to save – maybe you sliced into it too soon, or you only ate half of it – we have a trick for keeping it from browning.
But first, the science of how browning occurs:
As they ripen, fruits and vegetables develop compounds called polyphenol oxidases that, in the presence of oxygen (e.g. when the flesh of the fruit is exposed to air) will form a compound known to generate melanin – the same blackish-brown pigment we all have in our skin. However, in plant tissue, browning can accelerate the spoilage of freshly cut avocados, apples, or bananas, and can quickly make them inedible.
“You can stop browning by messing up cellular activity with acids (like citric acid from lemon juice), and you can also stop browning by sequestering active oxygen [or keeping oxygen away] with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C),” says Stephen Kaun, Apeel’s Senior Director of Technology.
Where do we get those oxygen-blocking barriers and acids?
Spritz the remaining avocado flesh with some lemon, lime, or olive oil. These substances help create a natural barrier between the fruit and oxygen, which will prevent those browning compounds from forming. Cover the flesh tightly and put it in the fridge. You can use this same trick on your guacamole, too!
At Apeel, we are constantly looking to nature for solutions to fight food waste. These tips and tricks for controlling the ripeness of your avocado will work whether or not your avocado is protected by Apeel. If it is, you can expect your avocado to last even longer at peak ripeness, so you can waste less, save money, and eat more of what you buy!
Find Apeel-Protected Avocados – and other longer-lasting fruits and veggies – at a grocery store near you