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ETHYLENE, A GAS THAT ROTS YOUR FRUITS

ETHYLENE, A GAS THAT ROTS YOUR FRUITS

Overall, food waste accounts for 15.55 million tonnes of CO2. Very often, we throw away damaged fruits and vegetables. According to an ADEME article published in November 2020,  nearly 10 million tonnes of consumable food are wasted each year in France. In order to optimize the consumption time of our fruits and vegetables, we must  pay  attention  to their production of ethylene gas.

Ethylene gas, an essential hormone for our fruit

Ethylene  is a gas produced by all fruits and vegetables. Formed from methionine, an amino acid, this plant hormone is essential during the maturation process. It develops the texture, appearance or flavour of fruits and vegetables. It  eliminates toxins in them, reduces their level of acidity and starch and increases their sugar levels.

However, ethylene sometimes continues to be produced after harvest when plants continue to ripen. Thus, plants whose maturity depends on ethylene are called climacteric. In addition, some plants produce it more than average. Thus, ethylene gas gradually degrades fruits and vegetables. In order to delay plant rot as much as possible, it is necessary to learn how to preserve them and to separate fruits that have ethylene in large quantities from other fruits that do not.

Climacteric plants

Plants producing ethylene in large quantities include:

  • bananas
  • apples
  • mangoes
  • melons
  • watermelons
  • Lawyers
  • plums
  • grapes
  • tomatoes
  • And finally, the onions.

These plants should not be preserved with those that are sensitive to ethylene, which we list below:

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Potatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • The carrots.

 Our tips for optimizing plant conservation

The production of ethylene is not a problem in itself. The important thing to avoid waste is to store your fruits and your vegetables with thought and care.

First, be careful to separate the foods in the first list above from those listed below.

  • For example, we advise you to keep cucumbers out of the refrigerator, as they deteriorate on contact with ethylene gas as well as cold weather.
  • Bananas are climacteric: wrapping them with aluminum at the stem will prevent ethylene from spreading to the whole fruit and will extend their shelf life by four to five days. You can also cut your bananas into pieces and store them in the freezer for up to three months.
  • Celery is often stored in plastic bags. However, the ethylene gas produced by this vegetable cannot escape.
  • Apples, which are also climacteric, must be kept completely separately.

 By applying these simple tips, it is possible to drastically limit food waste and therefore the amount of waste produced by everyone.

 Sources:

Abou, F. and Bucciarelli, F., Less Saves the Planet, Paris, 2020.

ADEME, “Reducing Food Waste,” updated november 5, 2020.

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