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Monday, August 27, 2012

Pet Peeve: Perfectly Ripe

One of my pet peeves is the term "perfectly ripe", because the ripeness ideal of a fruit is a culturally relative term. Certainly there's unripe, and there's ripe, but there's also a continuum between and beyond. Some fruits, like chile peppers and grapes, do not continue to ripen after being picked, while others, such as tomatoes and bananas react to accumulating ethylene, and will ripen. Put your chemophobia aside - ethylene gas is the endogenous hormone or signal produced by plants to induce and coordinate ripening. So no conspiracy if it is used to hasten fruit ripening. It's no different than adding yeast to dough rather than waiting for the errant spore to drift along and ferment the flour.

Local burro bananas, 3 days post picking.
But what's ripe and overripe? Well, that's a matter of perspective. Americans accustomed to yellow cavendish bananas, have been trained to regard brown spots as a sign of poor quality, and regularly discard bananas deemed "overripe", although they are fine to consume (in fact, perhaps more flavorful). Chinese scientists are taking advantage of this to develop a chitosan aerogel spray that retards ripening.
Same bananas, 6 days post picking. 

Remember, though, in the case of hachiya persimmons, pudding soft ripeness is the guarantee to avoiding the mouth puckering astringency of the underripe fruit. 

1 comment:

  1. I refuse to eat solid yellow bananas - they "squeak my teeth", and barely have any flavor. But a banana covered with brown dots, mmmmmmmm! But I'm the only one in my family like this, and I got all the "older" bananas LOL