You know how to store produce—it’s a no-brainer, right? You put all your apples and bananas in a bowl and throw your vegetables in the fridge. Odds are, you’ve been doing this for the majority of your life. And guess what? You’ve been doing it all wrong.
Storing certain types of produce together actually makes them ripen—and rot—faster. Ever notice how your green bananas turn yellow really quickly when they’re next to riper ones? It’s no coincidence. Some fruits release a gas as they ripen, which can speed up the ripening process for other produce around them. Here’s what’s going down…
There are two different types of fruits, explains Dr. Amy B. Hollingsworth, a biology professor at the University of Akron: climacteric (which ripen with a burst of ethylene gas and cellular respiration) and non-climacteric (which ripen without a burst of ethylene gas or cellular respiration).
Apples, bananas, melons, apricots, and tomatoes are examples of climacteric fruit, Dr. Hollingsworth says. Citrus fruits, grapes, and strawberries are non-climacteric. However, there are non-climacteric melons, apricots, grapes, and strawberries that have ethylene receptors. When you store produce together, it’s either making the gas, which ripens and eventually rots them, or it’s affected by other produce that make the gas.
Different fruits and vegetables have different ripening stages, and some ripen faster than others. Apples are the biggest culprits, says food blogger Georgios Pyrgiotakis of NerdMeetsFood.com: Storing them together will definitely cause the group to ripen quickly, and it’s important to weed out bad apples before you store them. One bad apple will produce ethylene that is detected by the rest and cause an almost out-of-control ripening of the whole bunch.
Bottom line: Storing most fruits and vegetables together is a no-no.
How to Really Store Your Produce
Don’t sweat how you store non-climacteric fruits like berries, grapes, cherries, and pomegranates—they can sit together and won’t ripen any faster than usual.
However, your other fruits and veggies should be separated. Try splitting each banana apart from the bunch or artfully arranging apples around your kitchen.
Climacteric produce that you keep refrigerated should go in the low-humidity drawer—it has a little valve that allows the ethylene gas to escape. The high-humidity drawer is for your non-climacteric fruits and veggies—it’s closed off to keep out the ethylene gas from your other fruits and vegetables. (TheKitchn.com has a great breakdown of what to store where in your fridge.)
Of course, this can all work in your favor, too. Got green bananas or rock-hard avocados that you want to ripen quickly? Pyrgiotakis recommends storing them overnight in a brown paper bag with an apple. They should be good to go by morning.