This can’t be true, but it does seem like bananas and avocadoes start ripening the moment you put them into your shopping bag. Within just a few days, these fruits and vegetables turn an overripe brown. It takes a keen eye to pick out these foods at the store so that they will be ready when you want to add them to that bowl of cereal or guacamole.


But picking out fruit or veggies is child’s play when it comes to choosing which flowers will last through the week. Besides consulting a horticulturist, there appears to be no way to know how long it will take that vase full of red roses to fade to black.

The invisible culprit is a gas that causes fruits and vegetables to ripen and flowers to wilt too quickly.  A new technology, however, could save billions of dollars for the food and florist industries and please anyone who is fighting the ongoing ripening battle at home or in restaurant kitchens.


Scientists explain that fruits, vegetables and flowers are still alive after picking, and they produce and release ethylene gas, which helps ripening and blooming. The problem is that when the gas escapes into enclosed storage and shipping containers, it builds up and speeds up ripening. To address this issue, Nicolas Keller, Marie-Noëlle Ducamp, Didier Robert and Valérie Keller compared all ethylene control/removal techniques described in more than 300 studies.


Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Reviews, they say that
photocatalysis offers the best opportunity to dissipate ethylene and slow ripening and blooming on Earth and during space missions. With the method, a catalyst and light act together to remove ethylene by transforming it into carbon dioxide and water.


Based on their extensive review, the team predicts that this approach could replace present ethylene removal technologies for storing and transporting fresh fruits and vegetables. The technology offers health and economic benefits worldwide by improving food quality and availability, they say.


Does this sound like an approach industry might embrace? How often do you have to throw out overripe fruit or veggies?



“Ethylene Removal and Fresh Product Storage: A Challenge at the Frontiers of Chemistry. Toward an Approach by Photocatalytic Oxidation”


*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing newsroom@acs.org.

 

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