I know I’ll have learned true responsibility when I can buy fruits and vegetables that don’t ultimately end up in the trash. It’s mostly my fault for hiding everything in the fridge and forgetting about it until it’s too late, but it’s partially the produce’s fault. That shit just goes bad too freaking fast!
That part might also be my fault, too, though: The survival of your fruit and vegetables is largely dependent on where you keep them. Putting all your apples, pears and bananas together in a bowl might make you feel like you’re in a still-life painting, but those bananas are gonna make everything rot waaaaaay faster.
As I’m sure you’re aware, bananas basically deteriorate before your eyes. Bananas can taste totally different from one day to the next because they ripen and rot so quickly. In doing so, though, they produce ethylene gas. This gas converts starches to sugars, which is also why bananas become sweeter as they ripen. When fruits are exposed to the ethylene produced by another fruit, they too will ripen faster.
Other fruits produce ethylene as well, including your typical fruit-bowl varieties like apples. However, they don’t produce quite as much as bananas, allowing them to survive longer on their own. Citruses can actually do just fine around ethylene-producers, because they themselves don’t produce it. In fact, in an article for the BBC, a fruit technologist recommended that ethylene-producing fruits be spritzed with lime juice to help stop them from turning to mush, especially in cut fruit-salad form.
Bananas can be harsh on vegetables, too. Broccoli and lettuce, for example, are ethylene-sensitive and can deteriorate more quickly when kept next to bananas. Similarly, you may want to keep tomatoes, another ethylene-producer, away from these particular vegetables as well.
It might be tricky to remember which items are ethylene-producers, ethylene-sensitive or ethylene-neutral, but bananas are definitely the biggest ethylene culprit, so if you’re gonna do anything, just keep your bananas away from the rest. And with all ethylene-producers and ethylene-sensitive produce, the ripening process will speed up if stored together in the tight drawers of your refrigerator, since the ethylene can’t escape as easily. The countertop is definitely the place for bananas.
With all that said, maybe you actually want your produce to ripen faster. In that case, just keep it next to a banana. Science is incredible, right?