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The pear necessities: why doesn’t my fruit ripen at home?

A pile of green pears in a supermarket

Supermarket fruit aisles offer an attractive abundance of choice, but I’m wondering why I bother buying fruit to ripen at home. Which fruit ripening trick works best for you?

No matter how long I leave plums in my fruit bowl, all too often they stay hard, crunchy and frankly not that pleasing to eat. They lack the deliciously sweet taste and scent that comes with ripeness.

Bowls, bags and bananas

I’ve tried keeping the fruit bowl in different places around the house in case my north- facing kitchen wasn’t sunny enough, but using a south-facing windowsill made no appreciable difference. There’s usually a ripe tomato or banana to keep the ripen-at-home apricots, peaches or nectarines company in the bowl. I’ve tried using paper bags, sometimes popping a tomato or banana in the bag too.

All too often I end up cooking fruit in a crumble or flan or regretfully consigning it to the compost bin because it has passed its best, without ever having been ripe.

To be fair, I’ve had more success with kiwi fruit. They don’t seem to go off so quickly, but I wouldn’t expect to eat them soon after buying them. Bananas manage to ripen on the banana hanger without taking too much time. Avocados eventually yield, but the four I bought over a week ago are still rock hard. They might not be thought of as fruit, but they still need to ripen at home, unless perhaps you pay extra for ‘perfectly ripe’ ones.

The ripe choice – ready or not?

I’ve been disappointed by surprisingly crunchy ‘perfectly ripe’ pears and peaches that needed a knife to tackle them. I appreciate that retailers can’t afford to lose stock because it goes off before they can sell it, but I think this type of fruit should be called ‘nearly ready to eat’.

Sometimes I buy fruit from a nearby street market. While being served I always enjoy the sweet, fruity aroma, something I never experience in a supermarket. I’ve noticed that fruit bought from the stall ripens at home more often. And in the summer it’s a treat to buy apricots or nectarines and eat them right away, rather than having to wait to see if they’ll ripen at home.

Does ‘perfectly ripe’ mean something different to what I expect? Am I out of step with current consumer preferences? Would people rather have an under-ripe peach than deal with the juices from a melt-in-the-mouth ripe one?

Even if this is the case, I find it hard to believe that fruit that simply doesn’t ripen at all is what consumers want or expect. I’ve tried the tips and techniques on the side of the pack, but with no success. Maybe I’ve been unlucky, but I find that ‘ready to eat’ fruit often isn’t ready at all.

Comments
Member

I struggle to work out when pears are ready to eat. Sometimes when they seem ripe I find that every one has gone brown in the centre.

Fruit is handled so roughly in supermarkets, both by staff and customers, that it is only practical to sell ripe fruit if it is packaged, which is obviously wasteful. ‘Perfectly ripe’ food annoys me too, Chris. I often buy this when it has reached its ‘use by’ date and is discounted, and it can be a week or more before it is really ripe. I like your suggestion of calling it ‘nearly ready to eat’.

I am not surprised that bananas are so popular. A glance will tell you when they are ready to eat and even if they are unripe, it will not take long before the taste and texture is ideal.

Member

Buying ripe/ready to eat fruit or avocados from M&S has been pretty successful. It avoids wasting, or not enjoying, under-ripe fruit. If it costs slightly more, this is offset by the reduced waste. In the event it was not ready to eat, or not heading that way, I’d return it on the next visit – never had a bad response to a (rare) complaint..

Member
jim watt says:
6 December 2012

It seems to be an increasing Which bad habit. You introduce a subject by asking a very interesting question, but fail to produce anything like an intersting answer.
Which used to be mag that asked intersting questions and provided interesting, informed answers.
Are those days gone ?
Should I stop contributing to Which ?

Member

The lack of interesting, informed answers is one problem, and comments that are not relevant to the topic is another. 🙂

To say something relevant, I would be grateful for any suggestions for how to speed up the ripening of kiwi fruit.

Member

Hello Jim, Which? Conversation is mainly about offering a Conversation starter to kick off the debate. Our investigations do often appear on Which? Convo, but in this case, we want to hear your ideas about ripening fruit, and this may help inspire us to do research of our own. For more on our research and investigations, Which.co.uk is often the best place to look. Thanks.

Member

Which Conversation starters may well be aimed at starting off a debate but they often come over as shallow, sloppy research under the banner of an organisation which prides itself on good, relevant , well researched advice for consumers.
You really do need to get rid of this “conflict” and make sure that anyone reading a starter is in no doubt that it is unresearched opinion aiming to start a debate and in no way reflects Which?’s thoughts on the matter.

Member

I agree with Jim

I came onto this page from an email newsletter I received. Although it asks for tips at the very end of the paragraph, it is slightly misleading. I was expecting more from this piece.

And saying that we should inspire Which? as to what research it should do. Well, then probably the criteria should be more open. We are asked for our tips on a very specific subject, and then told that this might inspire Which? to carry out research.

If I want only user opinions I can search the general internet for free. I’m paying to subscribe to Which? for their wisdom and knowledge…

I don’t think Jim’s comment is irrelevant. I’m disappointed by this piece.

Member

Hi both, thanks for the feedback. Which? Conversation is often the start of the journey for us – we want to work for you as consumers and so your ideas and feedback here are very valuable to us.

For instance, comments made here led to our Fixed Means Fixed campaign to stop price rises on fixed mobile contracts. We’ve even started testing new products, like winter tyres, from your feedback here.

We weren’t quite sure whether you’d be interested in poor ripening of fruit and veg, and so your comments here and the tips you give are a good indication that it may be a good idea to investigate and test out the theories. This is similar to our Convo on ‘fridge myths’ where you shared your tips on what should and shouldn’t be put in fridges – we then went and busted/confirmed some of these myths: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/freezing-food-myths-busted-freezers-safety/

Rarrar, we have high standards and would not like to think we’re sloppy, however a Convo is often only a suggestion of the topic which are, as you rightly say, personal opinions.

If you’d like to give us more feedback on this, please use our Contact Us form https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us, as I’d like to keep this debate on topic – the ripening of fruit and veg. Thanks.