According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nearly 40% of food is wasted every year, leading to economic, social, and environmental consequences. Food waste is the biggest category in landfills, contributing to 8-10% of human-caused greenhouse gas. Storing produce correctly can significantly extend its shelf life and prevent food waste. One essential factor to consider when storing produce is ethylene gas. In this article, we'll discuss what ethylene is, how it affects produce, and how to store produce to separate ethylene producers from ethylene-sensitive items.
What is Ethylene?
Ethylene is a gas that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. It plays a critical role in the ripening process, causing fruits and vegetables to mature and turn from green to their characteristic color. Ethylene also triggers the breakdown of chlorophyll, which leads to the loss of green color in produce.
How Ethylene Affects Produce?
Ethylene gas can have both positive and negative effects on produce, depending on whether it is an ethylene producer or an ethylene-sensitive item. Ethylene producers, such as apples, bananas, avocados, and tomatoes, can ripen and mature other produce items when stored together. However, when ethylene-sensitive items are stored with ethylene producers, they can ripen and spoil prematurely.
Examples of ethylene-sensitive produce include leafy greens, berries, cucumbers, peppers, and broccoli. Storing these items with ethylene producers can cause them to become yellow, soft, or develop mold, leading to food waste.
How to Store Produce Separating Ethylene Producers from Ethylene-Sensitive Items?
To prevent ethylene from spoiling ethylene-sensitive produce, it is essential to store these items separately. Here are some tips on how to store produce to separate ethylene producers from ethylene-sensitive items:
- Keep ethylene producers separate from ethylene-sensitive items: Store ethylene producers, such as apples and bananas, away from ethylene-sensitive items like leafy greens, cucumbers, and broccoli.
- Store ethylene-sensitive items in the refrigerator: Ethylene-sensitive produce, such as berries and lettuce, should be stored in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process and extend their shelf life.
- Use breathable containers: Use breathable containers like paper bags or perforated plastic bags for storing produce. These containers allow air to circulate, preventing moisture buildup that can lead to mold and spoilage.
- Check produce often: Check your produce often for signs of ripening or spoilage. Remove any items that are ripe or beginning to spoil to prevent them from spoiling other produce.
By following these simple tips, you can extend the shelf life of your produce and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables for longer. By reducing food waste, we can all make a positive impact on the environment and the world.