We often use the expression “a bad apple can spoil the bunch” when we want to say that a person’s negative behavior can eventually affect everyone in a group. This popular phrase originates from the fact that when a rotten apple is placed next to healthy ones, it will eventually cause the other apples to go bad as well. But have you ever wondered why is this happening? What causes the ripening of nearby fruits?
Let’s find out.
First of all, let’s start by clearing some facts. Yes, it’s true that a “bad apple spoils the whole bunch”, but this does not only apply to apples. Apricots, bananas, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, plums, tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables have the exact same effect. (the article continues after the ad)
How do they do it? By producing a gas called ethylene.
HOW ETHYLENE WORKS
As these fruits start to ripe, they start releasing ethylene. This small hydrocarbon gas works as an aging hormone that accelerates the ripening process of nearby fruits. Therefore, when a bad apple is placed into a bag with healthy ones, the ethylene produced by that apple with start affecting nearby fruits. As these fruits start ripening, they will also release ethylene and this process will work as a domino effect until every single apple in the bunch goes bad.
In fact, ethylene is widely used by fruit producers in order to always have fresh fruits at the market. For example, banana producers pick their bananas when still green and hard because they often need to travel for long periods. When they get to their destination, bananas are placed into chambers and exposed to ethylene in order to get them ready for the shelves. In just 1-2 days, the fruits are ready to hit the market and that’s why we always have newly ripen bananas every single day. This is the same reason why in North America we have apples in the spring and summer despite the fact that apples ripen in the fall.
BONUS LIFEHACK: Throwing a party and your avocados are not soft enough? No worries, just stick them in a zip bag with an apple, leave them overnight and ethylene will do its magic so you can have a delicious guacamole!
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Main Article Photo: Adrian van Leen / openphoto.net
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Does One Bad Apple Spoil the Bunch? | Avoid Premature Spoiling of Fruits and Vegetables | Ethylene: The Ripening Hormone | The Wise Book of Whys