It is most frustrating to buy a fruit only to find it is still unripe when you want to use it, especially if it’s a vital ingredient for a recipe. Everyone has experienced the disappointment of fruit that never seems to ripen properly.
Supermarkets try hard to provide fruit that will always ripens properly. However, this is not an exact science, and it is made more unpredictable by time in the season, variety characteristic, and maturity at harvest.
Early in the season, fruit take longer to ripen, and sometimes, in their eagerness to get to the market, growers pick fruit too early. This will never ripen, sitting annoyingly in your fruit bowl going mouldy or wrinkled!
The same thing can happen when fruit has to travel a long way. To avoid air-freight, fruit is picked slightly immature to last as long as possible for the sea journey. This can affect taste as well as ripening, and excludes some of the best tasting varieties: you can sea-freight a Kent mango, but not a Nam Dok Mai, which has to go by air!
However, even with fruit picked at the right time, ripe fruit can be very tricky to detect. How much softness is soft enough? What does ‘tender’ mean? Does the skin colour mean anything? Is it supposed to go black?
The main ripening culprits are:
- Peach, nectarine, plum and apricot
What to do?
- Read the Good Fruit Guide fruit directories for guidance: either in the Quality section for each fruit type, or under individual varieties.
- Be willing to wait for fruit to ripen naturally in your fruit bowl, i.e. let the fruit set the pace.
- Use ripening tricks like placing the fruit in a paper-bag with ripe tomatoes.
- Avoid refrigerating fruit that you want to eat: they will not ripen in there!