Eli5 Why is it recommended to place fruit in a brown paper bag to ripen?


I have often been advised to put fruit, such as avocados, in a brown paper bag so they will turn ripe quickly. This would be as opposed to leaving it on a kitchen counter. How does the fruit’s containment inside of a bag increase the speed of the chemical process of ripening? Does it specifically have to be a brown paper bag or will others, such as a plastic gallon zip lock, have the same effect?

In: Biology


Ripening avocados produce a gas (ethylene), which plays a part in the ripening process. Putting the fruits in a paper bag helps keep more of the gas close to the fruit, so it speeds up the ripening. Simple as that. The same is true of many fruits (apples and bananas, for example).

Other sorts of containers might work too, but I suspect that you’ll hit other problems if the container is too airtight. A paper bag is going allow at least some flow of gases.

Other chemicals can be used to get the same result. Acetylene is commonly used commercially, for example.