Ethylene is a natural gas considered the “ageing hormone of plants”. This gas is responsible for fruits and vegetables ripening. Ethylene makes fruits and vegetables change their colour and allows them to have a softer texture as well as to develop characteristics flavours and scents.
Some fruits and vegetables are producers of ethylene and other foods are very sensitive to this gas. For instance, among fruits ethylene producers, we can find apples, mangoes, bananas, avocados, melons, plums, grapes, tomatoes or onions. On the other hand, foods sensitive to ethylene are some as broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, potatoes or carrots.
When a fruit is ripening, it emits ethylene and therefore it accelerates the ripening of other fruits. Consequently, fruits decompose faster and we may find bitter flavour in carrots, roughness growth in asparagus leaves, red spots in lettuces, loss of colour in broccoli or softening of green ripe tomatoes.
To any producer or distributor, it is essential to keep the quality of food after the harvest so it arrivesin running order to the client. As the natural post-harvest production of ethylene is inevitable, and in addition, food is usually exposed to artificial sources of ethylene, it is fundamental to take the necessary means to avoid that the ethylene affects fruits and vegetable quality while they are being transported to the supermarket.
Some advice to reduce the exposure to ethylene gas