Take advantage of Mother Nature’s chemistry.

As autumn sets in it’s time to clear the garden of the last summer season cling-ons. Cut out the tomato plants to make space for succession sowing of cool season beetroot, lettuce, radishes, peas, broad beans and spinach (Swiss chard). Your tomatoes may still be fruiting, but pick them before you cut the plant out, even if they’re not ripe, and store with a banana to help them ripen fully.

Contrary to what we might believe, the sun isn’t solely responsible for fruit ripening. All fruit and vegetables produce an odorless and invisible gas called ethylene, the ripening hormone. Each different fruit and vegetable produces and is affected by ethylene in its unique way. Fruit generally produces more ethylene than vegetables, which is why you should store your fruit and veg separately.

Bananas are well known for being generous producers of ethylene, which is why they’re good to speed-ripen other fruit, such as avocados, peaches and tomatoes.

You can gently manipulate nature with your knowledge of ethylene: place unripe fruit such as peaches or pears together in a paper bag and close it up. The paper traps the ethylene, creating a ripening house, while still being permeable enough for the fruit to breathe and not go mouldy. Keep an eye on your process though, because ripening is actually a form of ageing and you don’t want the fruit to rot.

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