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A little science in the kitchen

How to make food—specially fresh produce—last long enough to be used up

Did you know that storing cabbage, cucumbers, and leafy vegetables alongside tomatoes and apples causes the greens to decay? This is because some foods are great ethylene-producers and quickly spoil other foods if they are placed alongside them. The key to keeping food fresh in the refrigerator is to separate ethylene-producers from non-ethylene producing foods

Most fruits and vegetables generate ethylene while they ripen. This gas is a very active plant hormone. If one is not organised, good old ethylene can ruin the vegetables, turn the bananas black. 

Leafy vegetables—even very small amounts —are very sensitive to ethylene. Lettuce, for example, begins to decay when exposed to ethylene, even in the refrigerator. Items particularly sensitive to ethylene, such as broccoli and bananas, will spoil quickly if they are stored in the same area as avocados, melons and apples, which are ethylene producers. 

That means we need to keep our vegetables away from the fruits to make our fresh foods last longer. This may explain why your refrigerator has two crisper drawers.

Foods that create ethylene:

Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupes, citrus fruits (except grapefruits), cranberries, figs, guavas, grapes, green onions, honeydews, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, mushrooms, nectarines, okra, papayas, passion fruits, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples, plantains, plums, prunes, quinces, tomatoes and watermelons. 

Foods which are damaged by ethylene:

Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, cut flowers, eggplants, endives, escaroles, florist greens, green beans, kale, kiwi fruit, leafy greens, lettuce, parsley, peas, potatoes, potted plants, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, watercress and yams. 

Of course, you can use ethylene to your favour. Try this: Place an unripe avocado in a plastic or paper bag by itself, and it will ripen much more quickly because the ethylene is trapped inside and becomes concentrated. 

Ditto for bananas. Because they produce ethylene, they can be manipulated to ripen themselves more quickly inside a bag than if theyre left out in the open air. And remember to add an apple to the bag when youre in a big hurry because apples are big-time ethylene producers! 

Mary Hunt : .
May 11 is National Technology Day

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