The Ethylene Equation: How Ethylene Influences Your Produces Freshness


When it comes to food storage, we often envision a harmonious coexistence, akin to our wish for people to just get along. However, reality tells a more complex story. While I always encourage culinary creativity, especially in crafting inventive stir-fries or smoothies from what's in your refrigerator, not all foods are compatible when it comes to storage, especially fruits and vegetables.

Despite the common practice of using the crisper drawer or a countertop fruit bowl for storage, this method may unintentionally compromise the freshness of your produce due to a gas called ethylene.

Understanding ethylene is key. Let's distinguish between climacteric and non-climacteric foods. Some fruits and vegetables continue ripening after purchase (climacteric), while others do not (non-climacteric).

So, why does ethylene matter? It's a plant hormone that influences ripening, flowering, and aging. When a fruit produces ethylene, it communicates with nearby produce, essentially saying, "It's time to ripen!" This can lead to premature ripening if mixed improperly.

Climacteric fruits like bananas and tomatoes respond to ethylene, while non-climacteric fruits like strawberries do not. To maintain freshness, it's best to store ethylene-producing items away from ethylene-sensitive ones.

In the kitchen, managing the ethylene conversation is crucial. Without proper handling, produce may ripen too soon or too late, making it challenging to gauge freshness.

For effective storage, keep ethylene-producing fruits like apples separate from ethylene-sensitive items like berries. This minimizes the risk of accelerated ripening and ensures optimal quality.

Understanding ethylene's role is essential for reducing waste and maximizing freshness in your kitchen. Check out the guide below for a helpful breakdown of compatible and incompatible foods. Consider turning this knowledge into a fun activity with your children to reinforce mindful produce handling for the whole family.

Stay tuned for more in "The Mindful Foodie" column and be sure to follow me on Instagram @mymindfulkitchen and download my eBook, "Becoming a Mindful Foodie”, by visiting

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