These Fruits Will Rot Quicker If They're Stored Near Each Other In Your Fridge

When English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote that a bad apple spoils the whole barrel, he was talking about a naughty apprentice, not the ethylene gas that apples emit as they ripen. However, that colorless, odorless gas can spoil stuff — especially your other fruits if you store them too close.

According to McGill University, apples emit ethylene (C2H4), a hydrocarbon gas whose purpose is to get the ripening process moving. That's fine at its early stages, but spoiled apples secrete even more of it and that triggers other apples to prematurely spoil too. Also, apples are not the only fruit to expel that gas. Bananas turn brown so fast after peeling because they emit ethylene — an issue that's kept them out of store-bought fruit salads for years (via BBC).

It's a problem on one hand, but that ethylene, honed and handled, can also help get you out of a jam. Need to soften an underripe avocado and feel short on time? Put one in a paper bag with a ripened banana overnight and it will be next-day ready for the guacamole recipe that you want to take to your dinner with friends.

In other words, ethylene is not your core culprit — time and place are. Knowing which fruits are ethylene emitters and which are ethylene sensitive will inform where to place fruits in your refrigerator so you can save your melon from rot, or push a pear to ripen, depending on your wishes for the day.

Which fruits to store where

Thrive Cuisine says that if you want long-lasting refrigerated fruit, keep pears, peaches, plums, and melons away from other fruits (and away from each other). They all secrete ethylene in amounts that should keep them out of your friendly kitchen counter fruit bowl and into different areas in your refrigerator. The refrigeration cold will cut the amount of ethylene produced so chilling not only makes them tastier but also extends their shelf life.

Add nectarines to that list as well, and keep all of them away from your tomatoes, which are sensitive to ethylene. Tomatoes also emit ethylene, however, so a red tomato is a great helper to toss into a paper bag with those green tomatoes you're wishing would ripen faster.

According to MorningChores, your vegetables also need protection. If you store carrots too close to ethylene-emitting fruits, they will begin to pick up a bitter flavor. Likewise, asparagus will get prematurely tough or yellow, as will broccoli and cauliflower. You'll know you have stored your ethylene fruits too close when your cauliflower leaves start falling off their stalks. Separating produce into your crisper is a better bet.

Apples and bananas remain some of the highest ethylene emitters of all. Root vegetables are susceptible to their ethylene so if you store your apples in your pantry, keep them plenty far away from your potatoes and onions.

You can find a printable list here of ethylene-emitting and sensitive fruits.

Tips and tricks to slow the spoil

There are a few tricks and tips to cutting the ethylene emission from fruits when you can't help but jumble produce together. For instance, bananas release ethylene from the stem, so if you wrap their stems with plastic wrap and secure them with a rubber band, you've gained a little power over their detrimental emissions to neighboring fruit. Business Insider points to this trick as a great way to cut back on banana waste when bought by the bunch, since wrapping the stem slows the ripening of the banana itself as well. Consider divvying up your bunch of bananas to spread their ripening process throughout the week. 

Fruits and vegetables aren't the only ones vulnerable to ethylene emitters, says plant-food brand Chrysal. Those cut flowers you just picked up from the grocery store and arranged in a vase next to your kitchen island bowl of fruit are in jeopardy. The ethylene emitted from the fruit "overripens" flowers just as it does fruit, so unless you give them enough space, count on an unnecessarily early demise for your flowers. Even without a sage Chaucer warning that one bad apple spoils a bunch of cut flowers in a vase, we would still do well to position the flowers on a kitchen island far, far away.