Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apples and Ethylene or How to Turn a Green Pumpkin Orange

I mentioned a few posts back, that an early snow had forced us to pick our pumpkins while still green. One was turned into a green pumpkin crisp, while the other was going into a bag of apples, to speed up the ripening process.

I ran into a problem though, when I went to get a bag. It turned out I only had plastic bags on hand. Since plastic bags don't allow moisture to escape, it became apparent pretty quickly, I would not be able to proceed with the experiment in that manner. Although, the large amount of condensation produced inside the bag by one pumpkin and a half a dozen Macintosh apples was pretty impressive, and might make good fodder for a different sort of experiment on another day. However, I really did want a ripe pumpkin, not a molded one, so I pulled it out of the bag, and placed it back on the table, until two days ago, when I could get my hands on a paper bag, and a fresh supply of apples.

Sitting on the table, the pumpkin had remained pretty much green, with just a hint of orange appearing around the stem. As, I mentioned before, we've ripened pumpkins this way for a number of years, it's one of the side effects of life western Montana - the growing season is just too short for really good results with pumpkins. From past experience, I can tell you, it takes several weeks in a sunny indoor spot for a green pumpkin to ripen.

In a bag full of apples however, it appears to take a matter of days.

The reason for this is the ethylene gas given off by the apples. It's the same reason that you can ripen bananas in a paper bag. They produce the gas, which speeds the ripening process, so when confined to the bag, they will ripen themselves. Grocery stores sometimes use a synthetic version of the gas to ripen produce, like bananas or tomatoes, delivered to them green.

A little knowledge of ethylene gas, can go a long way to keeping produce fresher in your refrigerator too. Below are a few links on ethylene gas I found helpful.





It's great to be a homeschooler.


Debbie said...

I remember reading your previous post. We use to do this all the time tomatoes. Great science experiment!

chris said...

Thanks for the info. We had to harvest our pumpkins early this year due to an Oct 3 snowstorm. I have a few green pumpkins under the house that need to turn green. Now I know what to do....I just need some LARGE paper bags!