According to Cal Harvest, this is a sure fire method. Place the fruit in a paper bag, stick a ripe banana in with the fruit and fold the bag top shut. Store the bag in a warm, dry place (the warmer it is, the faster it will ripen) – they recommend keeping the bag out of direct sunlight though. Check on the fruit after a day, and if satisfied, eat it: )
As mentioned above, the best and easiest way to stimulate ripening is in an airy paper bag folded over, with a ripe piece of fruit inside. What happens is that ethylene gas produced by plants, especially when they are stressed by heat or injury (bruising, cutting, etc.) is what helps the plants to ripen. This process has been used for thousands of years—ancient Egyptians would cut open the figs they harvested to get them to ripen more quickly, and Chinese farmers lit incense in closed room with unripened pears, where the temperature would rise and the pears would ripen. It wasn’t until 1901 that scientists discovered that ethylene gas could affect plant growth, and the 1930s before they realized that plants produce the gas themselves. So when you enclose fruit in a paper bag, the ethylene gas is trapped inside and the plant ripens.
Until you asked, I thought you could ripen bananas faster by putting them in the fridge, but this is actually a misconception. In addition to ethylene, the banana has natural acids that help the ripening process and make the banana sweet. In the fridge, the cold retards the acid formation, but ethylene continues to escape, turning the banana black by breaking down the cell walls of the peel and causing decay. So though the outside looks as though you are speed-ripening, you are only delaying the ripeness and causing psychological confusion at eating a blackened banana.
Speaking of bananas, the best banana bread comes from very very ripe, almost black bananas. If you want to ripen a banana for banana bread quickly you can put them in the oven with their peels on and bake at 300 until the peels are black. It isn’t quite the same as just waiting, but it makes them much sweeter and softer.
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