. . . . as the summer days shorten and fall seems just around the corner, sometimes it seems that the multitude of vegetables in the garden take forever to ripen (especially when rain is in the forecast). Then all of a sudden it’s like a avalanche of ripe produce.
Productive Acorn Squash
Our one and only prolific acorn squash last year, grew unrestrained over our back lawn and it produced 25 to 30 lovely squash which began as a pale yellow to almost lime green colour. After about a week of night temperatures dipping below 10 degrees celsius; along with the daylight hours decreasing; on checking the garden about half, mostly the larger, squash had miraculously turned a dark green. How do they know winter is approaching?
This had me intrigued so I just had to find out how the different conditions affect the speed at which fruit and vegetables ripen and can gardeners help them along? Temperature, light, placement in sealed bags, exposure to other ripe fruit–all have different effects on different fruits and vegetables.
Why Fruit Ripen
Ethylene gas is a ripening agent that many fruits and vegetables produce naturally. Ethylene causes them to ripen–and then over ripen. While refrigeration and humidity slow the effects of ripening, they don’t stop the production of ethylene gas. The more the fruit ripens, the more ethylene gas it makes. This explains why apparently there are lots of vegetables ripening in a relative short period of time.
Phytochrome, Ethylene and hormones – these compounds produced naturally in the fruit trigger growth or development in response to their environment, disease and other conditions all playing a part in the development and ripening of vegetables.
We can use this information to hasten ripening of our fall crops by protecting (covering) plants especially tomatoes. It is also a good idea to cover tomatoes to keep the rain off the plants to prevent disease which can be a big problem in the Pacific Northwest in late fall.
This information helps in ensuring :
1.The fruit and vegetables ripen naturally
2.Vegetables are harvested, and can set seed, before the first killing frost (or the snow falls).
3.Vine ripened vegetables lengthen the storage time. Average storage time for our Acorn Squash once picked – three months.
There is nothing like a sun ripened, chemical free, fruit or vegetable picked from your own garden, and served on the table the same day ~ or even better a few months later. Plants really are incredible. Happy harvesting !
“A garden is never so good as it will be next year.”
~ Thomas Cooper
Notes & References
- More in depth plant physiology
- Artificial ethylene gas used on farms to accelerate ripening, especially commercially grown tomatoes. Calcium carbide with arsenic and phosphorus also used
- Plant physiology is fascinating
- Gassing is why so much of our store bought produce is tasteless – as they are picked green before shipping and gassing
- Almost four months after picking and storing the squash, we were still eating our own delicious “organic” squash and pumpkin. Makes a great winter soup!