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A Ripe Observation

Proving the effects of ethylene gas on fruit

(HealthDayNews) -- Ethylene gas, the ripening agent that many fruits and vegetables produce naturally, causes them to ripen -- then over-ripen.

Careful comparisons of three tomatoes -- one kept on a windowsill in the sun, another set nearby in a closed paper bag, and the third placed in a refrigerator -- can demonstrate how temperature, refrigeration, light and containment of the ethylene gas affect ripening and taste.

Refrigeration and humidity slow the effects of ripening, but they don't stop the production of ethylene gas. The more the tomato ripens, the more ethylene gas it makes. This has a big effect on how -- and when -- farmers harvest their fruits and vegetables for market.

Most commercial tomatoes are picked before ripening is completed, so the fruit won't spoil before it gets to your market. But picking early also means the tomato spends less time on the vine, where ethylene would help build more of the sugars and acids that create tip-top tomato flavor.

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