Like most things we try to classify one way or the other, there tend to be some exceptions or outliers. Apples, for example, ripen after being picked and increase in not just sweetness but also get softer over time. Most people prefer apples underripe (since the varieties generally eaten uncooked tend to be fairly sweet right off the tree) and do not prefer them at full ripeness due to how soft (and mealy) the flesh becomes. (Because apples do ripen after harvesting and we don't often allow them to reach full ripeness, if you've got an apple in your house, it's probably in the process of ripening and therefore outgassing carbon dioxide and ethylene. The latter gas - for reasons not yet fully understood - will trigger and speed up ripening processes in other fruits which can be ripened after picking - see chart below). Another example is the pineapple (a fruit that doesn't ripen after harvest) which does change color after being picked but does not get sweeter or develop a stronger aroma. For this reason, they should be selected not by how golden the skin is but by how fragrant it is.
Conventional wisdom states that fruits which are ripened on the plant will be superior to those picked early (and possibly ripened later if it is one of those lucky fruits that can continue to ripen). There is much truth in this, but again there are some interesting exceptions. The first is the avocado which does not ripen on the tree at all. This is one fruit which has to be picked (or fall off the tree) to begin ripening. I was surprised to learn during my research that Modernist Cuisine claims pears also do not ripen on the tree. This is not technically true as pears do ripen on the tree but many varieties do not taste good when tree-ripened with particular complaints regarding off-flavors. Pears are one of the few fruits which are best ripened off the tree. Bananas are another interesting case as it is the ultimate example of ripening after harvest - bananas improve in every aspect (sweetness, color, aroma, and texture) dramatically when ripened at home and, by all accounts, is as good as when plant-ripened.
Fruits that ripen after being picked can have their ripening processes accelerated easily in two ways: heat and ethylene. Keeping fruits in a warm environment will ripen the fruit by accelerating the activity of the ripening enzymes. This process speeds up until the temperature rises past that at which the enzymes remain intact (which is lower for fruits from colder weather regions and higher in tropical fruits). This can also increase the rate of spoilage as surface bacteria and microorganisms will generally thrive in warm temperatures up to the deactivation temperature of the enzymes. Washing the fruit with a fruit wash is advisable before attempting to heat ripen it.
Ethylene gas ripening is probably easier since all it takes is an ethylene producer (the fruit itself will work, but an apple is even better). Simply place the fruits in a paper bag with the top folded over. This creates an environment which allows some airflow but will increase the concentration of ethylene gas around the fruit. When fruits which will ripen after harvest are exposed to a high ethylene concentration, ripening is promoted.
In this chart, I have listed fruits in alphabetic order after separating them into two sections. The first section contains those which ripen after harvesting (and can be assumed to produce ethylene gas until fully ripe). The second section lists fruits known to not ripen after being picked (a few of these fruits may change colors but they do not actually ripen). For the fruits that continue to ripen, I have marked which characteristics increase while ripening - sweetness, scent, and/or softness.
|Fruits Which Ripen After Harvest|
|Fruits Which Do Not Ripen After Harvest|
I did find some conflicting information on cherimoyas with some sources claiming they get sweeter and others claiming they do not. I decided to list it as a fruit which does not get sweeter after being picked because that's how it is listed in On Food and Cooking.}?>
Do you leave the rind on when cutting in quarters or are the quarters completely trimmed? I'll have to experiment with this next time I pick up a pineapple.
A couple years a go I wrote up my method for slicing a pineapple at http://crazygora.blogspot.com/2009/12/off-dole.html
Jim, I cut my pineapples in a very similar method (with an added step of carving out all the eyes after removing the rind which forms kind of a spiral pattern of grooves). I also store mine in airtight containers in the fridge and find it stores well in that condition. What I've never experienced is the increased ripeness after being cut that Kevin mentioned. I thought it might be because I was leaving only the flesh of the fruit and perhaps if it was attached to either the rind or the core it would act differently over time. You probably eat more pineapples than I do, what has been your experience?
Thanks, I've removed the listing for figs under "does not ripen" because it was in error. They do not get sweeter, but do continue to ripen.
No experience, but it doesn't make sense to me that a pineapple would get sweeter if you left the rind on cut pieces AND refrigerated them. Maybe Kevin's right??? I'm not going to experiment.
If I remember, the next time I buy a pineapple, I'll quarter it (lenthwise), cut a slice from the center of each quarter (so I'll have a sample from each quarter in the middle. Trim the sample so it is without core and without rind then store it in the fridge next to the quarter (in two pieces) it belonged to. Then the next day I can taste it to see if there is a difference between fully trimmed and kept in wedge form. Log results. Repeat for three days.
Two additional columnns would make it really helpful: "Usually eaten..." and "...so you should" to help people understand how it really ought to be stored. For example, peaches and nectarines are usually eaten "soft around the stem", so you should "remove from refrigerator 2 days before eating." Apples are usually eaten "crispy" so you should "keep refrigerated." Blueberries ripen quickly, and are usually eaten "tender but firm" so you should "refrigerate." Pears are usually eaten "slightly soft" so they should be "ripen in paper bag with an apple."
Resembles McIntosh in taste, appearance, shape, and flesh. Slightly firmer than McIntosh. Aceymac may be Spartan with new name
Adams's Pearmain apple
Classic Victorian 'pearmain' shape apple with a nutty sweet flavour.
Medium-sized, yellow-green underecolor with striped red wash. Good dessert quality. The apple name, Adanac, is Canada spelled backwards.
Aerlies Red Flesh apple
A red-fleshed apple variety from the USA, sometimes known as Hidden Rose or Airlie Red Flesh.
Though have you ever had a fully ripe apricot straight from the tree? There is no comparison between that and a home ripened fruit. There are gorgeous scent/flavour compounds that are simply missing, in as little as a day after the fruit has been picked. They are heavenly from the tree.
I often think people who say they don't like a particular fruit have just never had a properly ripe specimen, and now I can see why! Though technically a fruit is defined by their ability to ripen off the tree, if there's no increase in sugar, has it really 'ripened'?
I guess it's personal preference as to whether the non-sweet ripened fruit are worth eating from the supermarket - I'd say no for most of them but then I'm a sweet tooth and dislike anything remotely sour. I'm suddenly thankful mangoes are so delicious by the time they've travelled the thousand or so miles between where they're grown and my mouth.
"When you get the pineapple home, tear off the top and store it unrefrigerated upside down for a day or two prior to cutting."
He claims the sugars are predominantly in the bottom and by inverting the pineapple the sugars will "diffuse" throughout the flesh. Not so much adding sweetness, as distributing it more evenly throughout the entire pineapple.
maybe I live in an alternate universe,
but most of the pineapples at my local supermarkets are not ripe (hard, no sweet smell or taste). When they are at room temp for a few days they soften, smell and taste sweet=ripe (the leaves pull out easily when ripe
Other who live in the vicinity also experience the strange phenomena ripening picked pineapples but, there are no increase in UFO sightings hear.
Ian, that is an incredible resource! Thank you for sharing it - I'll be spending many hours reading through all these Q&A's!
Strawberries, if home-grown, will also ripen. I'll bet you're right when talking about store-bought ones: I only buy them if they're already ripe and ready to eat, otherwise they go from unripe to rotten and moldy in a day or two at most. But yesterday I accidentally picked a strawberry that wasn't quite as ripe as I'd thought. I placed it in the window and this morning it was just about ready to eat.
This is a terrible misleading. Also, the reasoning of pineapples not ripening has no scientific proof.
We have tried different ways. The upside-down method has proven always work. We had cut it at various readiness. If you can call it an experiment, put a pineapple upside-down at a place you often pass by. As soon as you smell the pineapple specific aroma, it is ready. Don’t wait, it will be over-ripened soon.
It is sweet and tasty. Never fails.
Pineapples DO ripen further and a lot.
I too apparently live in the magical land of Canada.
Upside down is a decent way because it prevent mold, but I usually leave it near a window and give it a quarter spin once a while.
You will know when it's ready... That quarter spin will just spread the smell all around!
one extensive resource is:
(1) the sugar in a pineapple comes from the root of the plant; once cut no more sugar is 'converted' in the fruit proper.
(2) once cut, the pineapple begins to decay; the process of decay/rotting does make it softer.
(3) ease of pulling out leaves is not a sign of ripeness, it is indicative of the state of decay.