7 Fruits That Keep Ripening After You Buy Them (and 7 That Don’t)

Picking your produce can be tricky! Some fruit will stop ripening the moment it's harvested, while others ripen on the counter.

The bright colors and fruity aromas of the produce department are designed to fill us with optimism—and fresh fruit recipe ideas. It’s going to be a delicious, healthy week, we’re thinking, although we know there’s a risk a lot of our haul is going to end up going to waste. It’s not that we don’t mean well. It’s that we don’t pick well, particularly when it comes to fruit. And that’s often because we don’t understand how produce ripens.

When it comes to ripening, most fruit falls into two categories: climacteric and non-climacteric. Climacteric refers to those fruits that ripen off the plant, through the production of ethylene gas. Non-climacteric refers to fruits that must ripen before they’re picked.

Fruits That Keep Ripening

Bananas

Do bananas ripen after picking? Yes! Bananas are picked before they’re ripe and only get riper as they sit. When shopping for bananas, look for ones that aren’t fully green or deep yellow. A banana that’s totally green might never ripen. A banana that’s too yellow, on the other hand, can get mushy fast (but older bananas are perfect for banana bread recipes).

If you want to quickly ripen bananas, toss the bunch in a paper bag. You can also slow down the ripening process to keep bananas fresh longer.

Avocados

We all know how hard it is to choose the perfect avocado. That’s because they are picked before ripening, and they can turn from rock hard to mush seemingly overnight, foiling our plans for perfect guacamole. However, if you keep an eye on your avocados, you can catch them at just the right time. This is how to tell if an avocado is ripe. In a pinch, this is how to quickly ripen an avocado.

Peaches

Peaches will continue to soften after they’re picked. In the store, look for peaches that are fragrant and have a slight give when you squeeze them. If you find that your peaches are just a touch underripe, place them stem down on a dishtowel and lay another dishtowel over the top. This should help speed up the process. You can also pop underripe peaches in a paper bag.

Just a word to the wise: red color doesn’t mean that a peach is ripe—red skin is normal for certain types of peaches.

Plums

Plums are picked before they’re ripe and will ripen if allowed to sit on the countertop for a few days. You can also speed up the process by placing them in a brown paper bag. Does a plum’s flavor change as it ripens? Unlike bananas and peaches, plums do not become noticeably sweeter as they ripen, only softer. When shopping for plums, look for fruit that feels heavy in your hand and has a slight give. Soft plums are already past their prime.

Don’t miss our plum recipes worth savoring!

Cantaloupe

It’s hard to know how to tell if a melon is ripe. But when you know what to look for, you can be sure you’re eating yours at the right time! When shopping, look for a slight indentation on the stem. The netting (the pattern on the melon) should be raised and the exterior should be golden (not green). Like plums, good cantaloupes should feel heavy for their size. If you grab one that’s a touch too green, stash it in a paper bag for a day or two. It will ripen up.

Blueberries

Blueberries ripen after picking, provided they’re picked at the right time. If a blueberry is white or green, it was picked too soon and won’t ripen. How can you tell which blueberries are ripe? Keep an eye out for full-looking berries with a gray-blue color. They should be ready to eat (or pretty close).

Tomatoes

The best tomatoes are those that are fully ripened on the vine, but tomatoes will ripen somewhat off the vine as long as they’re not exposed to the cold—that means no refrigerator! Stashing them in the fridge won’t help them keep longer, it just makes them mealy in texture. If you have a tomato that isn’t quite ripe, let it sit on the counter or toss it in a paper bag stem side up.

Fruits That Don’t Ripen After Picking

Strawberries

Strawberries don’t ripen once they’re picked, so if they don’t look ripe, they never will be. How can you tell which strawberries are the freshest? Look for a bright red color, a natural shine and fresh-looking green tops. Avoid berries with white tops or tips. Keep berries refrigerated, although they will taste sweeter if you let them come to room temperature before eating. Learn more about how to use your crisper drawer to keep produce fresh.

Pineapple

Pineapple is another fruit that’s picked when it’s as ripe as it’s going to get. Pineapple can be kept on the counter for up to three days after bringing it home. After that, it should be stored in the refrigerator. How can you tell when a pineapple is ripe? Look for pineapples with green leaves and firm flesh. There should be a faint sweet aroma at the base. Don’t worry about the color or whether the leaves pull out easily; neither is a true indicator of ripeness. Follow these directions to cut that perfect pineapple at home.

Watermelon

You need to know how to tell if watermelon is ripe, because this fruit won’t ripen off the vine. Look for a buttery yellow spot on the melon. This indicates that the melon ripened in the field. A white or green underside means the melon was picked too soon. Once you get it home, it will store for about two weeks in the fridge.

Apples

Apples, no matter what variety, should be picked at peak ripeness and kept in the refrigerator. They should keep for several weeks. You can also use produce freshness balls to absorb ethylene gas and keep the fruit ripe for longer.

Cherries, Grapes and Citrus Fruits

Like the other non-climacteric fruits, cherries, grapes and citrus fruits don’t ripen once they’re severed from the plant. What you see in the store is what you will get at home, and all of these fruits should be stored in the fridge to keep them from going bad.

Don’t let your perfectly-picked produce go to waste! Once your fresh fruit is home, here’s how long your fresh produce will really last.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.