Ripe Fruit? It's in the Bag

If you want to know who is the key to getting riper, better-tasting fruit, look in the mirror.

Most fruit you get in the grocery store is pretty hard. It has to be, or it never would have gotten there in shape for you to buy.

But even fairly firm fruit will ripen almost perfectly if treated right. The problem is, most people either eat the fruit on the spot or stick it in the refrigerator for later.

Both approaches are dead wrong. Instead, you should finish ripening the fruit yourself. It takes little more than a day in most cases and absolutely no special equipment or expertise.

When you're stuck with a hard piece of fruit, stick it in a brown paper bag, fold the bag closed and leave it in a cool spot overnight. Within a day or two, you'll have perfectly ripened fruit.

So what's wrong with your refrigerator? The problem is that refrigerator temperatures--between 37 and 40 degrees--are the wrong temperatures for ripening fruit.

The ideal temperature is between 32 and 35 degrees, says Carlos Crisosto, a post-harvest physiologist at UC Davis, but failing that, cool room temperature is better than the refrigerator. Once ripe, of course, fruit can be stored in the refrigerator, though it tastes best if brought back to room temperature before it's eaten.

The brown paper bag? It traps the ethylene gas given off naturally by the fruit, speeding the ripening process.

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