Fruits & Vegetables Producing Ethylene Or Sensitive To Ethylene

We all know that one bad fruit in the box spoils the whole box of fruits. Only one apple, banana, kiwifruit, mango or guava can spoil the other fruits placed nearby. Why it is so? What causes fruits and vegetables to rot? The reason is the ethylene gas released by fruits and vegetables [1].

Find a list of fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas and the foods which are sensitive to ethylene.

Fruits Ripening Gas - Ethylene


Ethylene is a hydrocarbon gas (C2H4, molecular weight 28.05), flammable, odorless, harmless and tasteless [2]. It is a type of plant hormone, known as senescence hormone released by fruits and vegetables. In the plant, it is produced by the aging tissues and nodes of stems. It is obtained from petroleum and natural gas.

The effect of ethylene hormone is to promote ripening of fruits to make them softer and sweeter, so ethylene is a natural ripening agent. It should be noted that if you do not monitor ripening carefully, your fruit may rot as the quicker ripening is actually a form of accelerated aging that will decrease the product quality and shelf life.
Ethylene Producing Fruits
Ethylene Producing Fruits

Following are the effects of ethylene gas on the fruits and vegetables:
  1. Apples lose crunchiness
  2. Fresh produce and flower decay, wilt
  3. Leafy vegetables and eggplants spotting
  4. Yellowing of cucumbers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  5. Rind of citrus breaks down
We can use this knowledge on ethylene to extend the life of fruits and vegetables and prevent their spoilage.

Both fruits and vegetables release ethylene gas, however, fruits produce more ethylene than vegetables do. While some fruits and vegetables are high ethylene producers, others are more sensitive to it.

Ethylene is used to control the ripening process of fruits by introducing this gas into a controlled environment. When ethylene producing foods are kept in close proximity with ethylene-sensitive foods, the gas will speed up the ripening process of the other produce.

How To Prevent Food Spoilage

So you can speed up the ripening process of an unripe fruit by putting an ethylene producing food near to it, for example, by putting an unripe avocado with an apple in a bag.
  1. The action of ethylene slows down at lower temperatures, so the fruit does not respond well to externally supplied ethylene. that is why you can store your fruits in fridge to slow down their ripening process.
  2. Some fruits and vegetables are sensitive to the ethylene gas, so keep such produce away from ethylene producers as they deteriorate quickly and decay prematurely in high- ethylene environment. The degree of damage depends upon the concentration of ethylene, the temperature and duration of exposure. [3];
  3. High ethylene producing fruits should be kept away from other fruits and vegetables. Store fruits and vegetables separately, because fruits release more ethylene gas than vegetables, which can spoil the veggies. Keep leafy vegetables and lettuce away from fruits. Therefore, store ethylene emitting produce such as apples, avocados, bananas, melons, peaches, pears, tomatoes, etc. separately from broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens, lettuce, etc. as these are ethylene sensitive.
  4. Do not store spinach, kale or similar leafy vegetables near apples, bananas or peaches, otherwise they will turn yellow quickly and limp [4]. 
  5. Keep away your ripe foods from ethylene-producing foods to last longer.
  6. Storing potatoes with apples naturally inhibit sprouting in potatoes. The potato industry introduce trace amounts of ethylene into potato storage boxes to delay the sprouting process significantly [5].
  7. Keep Onions & Potatoes Separated as both can release moisture that will cause each other to spoil faster. Store them separately in a dry, cool and airy place. Many people have given ethylene as the reason for storing onions and potatoes separately, but that is not true; both potatoes and onions do not produce ethylene gas, only potato is sensitive to this gas [6].
  8. Remove and discard the older rotten fruits so that your other fruits and vegetables last longer with full nutritional benefits.
  9. Citrus fruits do not ripen further after they are picked so they have long self-life.
  10. Note that tomatoes are not artificially reddened by ethylene. The normal tomato ripening process can be accelerated by externally applied ethylene [7].

Ethylene Producing and Ethylene Sensitive Fruits & Vegetables

The following chart [6] gives a list of foods which are high emitters of ethylene and foods that are sensitive to ethylene. Looking at the list of foods, you can make an intelligent combination of produce for storing them without spoilage.

Ethylene Producing Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits & Vegetables Ethylene 
Emission
Ethylene 
Sensitivity
ApplesHighYes
ApricotsHighYes
Avocados, ripeHighYes
Avocados, unripeLowYes, Very
Bananas, greenLowYes
Bananas, ripeMediumNo
BlackberriesVery LowNo
BlueberriesVery LowNo
CantaloupeMediumYes
CherriesVery LowNo
CucumbersVery LowYes
EndiveNoNo
FigsLowNo
GrapefruitVery LowNo
GrapesVery LowYes
GuavasMediumYes
Kiwi, ripeHighYes
Kiwi, unripeLowYes, Very
LemonsVery LowNo
LimesVery LowNo
LycheesVery LowNo
MangoesMediumYes
Melons, Honey DewMediumYes
NectarinesHighNo
OkraVery LowYes
OrangesVery LowNo
PapayasMediumYes
PeachesHighYes
PearsHighYes
PineapplesVery LowNo
PlumsHighYes
PrunesHighYes
QuincesHighYes
RaspberriesVery LowNo
StrawberriesVery LowNo
TangerinesVery LowNo
Tomatoes, greenLowYes
Tomatoes, ripeMediumNo

NO Ethylene Emission, Not Sensitive

Fruits & Vegetables Ethylene
Emission
Ethylene
Sensitivity
Artichoke
Sweet
NoNo
Cherries sweetNoNo
ChicoryNoNo
CoconutsNoNo
CornNoNo
CranberriesNoNo
GarlicNoNo
GingerNoNo
KohlrabiNoNo
OnionsNoNo
Peppers sweetNoNo
PomegranatesNoNo
RhubarbNoNo

Ethylene Sensitive Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits & Vegetables Ethylene 
Emission
Ethylene 
Sensitivity
AsparagusNoYes
Avocados, ripeHighYes
Avocados, unripeLowYes, Very
Bananas, greenLowYes
BasilNoYes
BeetsNoYes
Bok ChoyNoYes
BroccoliNoYes
Brussels SproutsNoYes
CabbageNoYes
CantaloupeMediumYes
CarrotsNoYes
CauliflowerNoYes
CeleryNoYes
CucumbersVery LowYes
EggplantNoYes
GrapesVery LowYes
Green BeansNoYes
Green PeasNoYes
GuavasMediumYes
HerbsNoYes
Kiwi, ripeHighYes
Kiwi,unripeLowYes, Very
LeeksNoYes
LettuceNoYes
MangoesMediumYes
Honey DewMediumYes
MushroomsNoYes
OkraVery LowYes
PapayasMediumYes
ParsnipsNoYes
PeachesHighYes
PearsHighYes
Peppers,hot NoYes
PersimmonsNoYes, Very
PlumsHighYes
PrunesHighYes
PotatoesNoYes
PumpkinsNoYes
QuincesHighYes
RadishesNoYes
RutabagasNoYes
Salad MixesNoYes
SproutsNoYes
Squashes, summerNoYes
Squashes, winterNoYes
Sweet PotatoesNoYes
Tomatoes, greenLowYes
TurnipsNoYes
WatermelonNoYes, Very




Fruits & Vegetables That Produce Ethylene


Some fruits and vegetables emit more ethylene at a much higher rate than others. The question is which foods emit the ethylene gas most?

Apples, Apricots, ripe Avocados, Cantaloupe, Guavas, Mangoes, Nectarines, Papayas, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Quinces and ripe Tomatoes are high to medium ethylene emitters; while Berries (Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Raspberries, Strawberries), Cucumbers, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Lemons, Limes, Lychees, Okra, Oranges, Pineapples and Tangerines produce only a small amount of ethylene gas.

The following fruits and vegetables are emitters of ethylene and they themselves are sensitive to ethylene.

Apples, Apricot, Avocado (ripe &  unripe), Bananas (green), Cantaloupe, Cucumber, Fig, Grapes, Guava, Kiwi, (ripe & unripe), Mango, Honey Dew Melon, Okra, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Plum, Prune, Quince, Tomato (Green)

Fruits & Vegetables Sensitive To Ethylene

The following fruits and vegetables are highly sensitive to ethylene gas, but they themselves do not emit ethylene.

Asparagus, Basil, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Chinese, Cabbage, early, Carrots, bunched, Cauliflower, Celery, Eggplant, Elderberries, Green Beans, Green Peas, Herbs, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Peppers, hot chili, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, spring, Rutabagas, Salad Mixes, Sprouts, Squashes, summer, Squashes, winter, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Watermelon.

Fruits & Vegetables that DO NOT Produce Ethylene Gas


The following fruits and vegetables do not emit ethylene and are not sensitive to it.

Artichokes, Cherries sweet, Chicory, Coconuts, Corn, sweet, Cranberries, Garlic, Ginger, Kohlrabi, Onions, Peppers sweet, Pomegranates, Rhubarb, etc.

Oranges produce very small amount of ethylene gas and are not sensitive to this gas.

References

‎1. Lelièvre, et al., Ethylene and fruit ripening, pdf
2. Ethylene - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
3. Curry, E.A. and M.E. Patterson. 1993. Controlling ethylene biosynthesis with natural compounds. Proc. Wash. State Hort. Soc.: 312-313.
4. Spoiled Rotten—How to Store Fruits and Vegetables,
www.vegetariantimes.com/article/spoiled-rotten-how-to-store-fruits-and-vegetables/
5. Bob Mueller, Using Ethylne, Potato Grower Magazine, August 2013 Issue Published online: Aug 04, 2013.
6. Engineering ToolBox! Fruits and Vegetables - Optimal Storage Conditions, www.engineeringtoolbox.com/fruits-vegetables-storage-conditions-d_710.html
7. California Fresh Market Advisory Board, Informational Bulletin No. 12, June 1, 1976.

2comments

Thanks a lot. Well researched and extensive. Content of your article far exceeds the matter I have been gathering from various sources during the last ten years. Kudos and keep it up
Reply

Thanks for your comments and appreciation.
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