Ripening 101: Climacteric vs. Non-Climacteric Fruits

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Have you ever had to throw out a piece of fruit because it began to rot?

Ripening occurs when enzymes such as pectinase and amylase break down starches and pectin, which softens and sweetens the fruit. Another factor that is essential in fruit ripening is ethylene, a naturally occurring gas that triggers and promotes the ripening process.

Climacteric fruits — those that can ripen after being picked — produce much more ethylene than non-climacteric, which cannot ripen once removed from the plant. Some fruits, such as apples and bananas, produce even more ethylene gas than other climacteric fruits. If you find yourself impatiently waiting for a climacteric fruit to ripen, you can speed up the process by placing the fruit in a brown paper bag to concentrate the ethylene, or even position it near an apple or banana.

Not knowing which fruits are climacteric is where we tend to run into trouble.  Fruits such as pears and peaches are climacteric, so you don’t have to worry about buying a hard peach because it will ripen given enough time. On the other hand, non-climacteric fruit, such as strawberries, have already done most of their ripening on the plant and will slowly begin to rot after they’re picked. Knowing which fruits will ripen or which may be in danger of rotting can help you determine when to eat them.

Below is a list of common climacteric and non-climacteric fruits that will help you choose the right fruit … at the right time.

Climacteric Fruits

Apple, banana, mango, papaya, pear, apricot, peach, plum, avocado, plantain, guava, nectarine, passion fruit, blueberry, cantaloupe

Non-Climacteric Fruits

Citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemon, berries such as raspberry, strawberry and cherry, grapes, pineapple, melon (including watermelon), pomegranate

Corina Abell
​Corina Abell is a dietetic intern at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. She graduated from West Chester University in May 2016 and her hometown is Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.