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Ripening is a process in fruit that causes them to be more edible. In general, the fruit get sweeter, less acidic, become less green and get softer.

Stages of a plant's life, like a human's, are influenced by hormones. These are often connected to pollination. If too few seeds in a multiseeded fruit are formed (by fertilization of the ovules), flesh of the fruit may not develop some areas of the fruit, and ripening will be retarded or prevented. Fruit growers increasingly monitor seed ratios in forming and/or mature fruit and adjust pollination management accordingly.

Shortage of pollinators can be an unrecognized factor in poor ripening of fruit. In a test in the Rio Grande valley of Texas, increasing the number of beehives in cantaloupes by a factor of about 2 1/2, increased the total crop by almost seven tons per acre, mostly due to increased sugar content in the fruit.

An important plant hormone involved with ripening is the chemical ethylene. Ethylene is a gas created by plants from the amino acid methionine, and can easily be created synthetically. Ethylene causes increased levels of certain enzymes in the fruit. These enzymes include:

Many fruits are picked prior to full ripening, because ripened fruits do not ship well. For example bananas are picked green, and then gassed with ethylene after shipment, so they can be artificially ripened. Home users can also speed ripening. For example, kiwifruit from the supermarket often is slow to finish ripening, and can be hastened by placing the fruit in a bag with an apple, which gives off natural ethylene gas.

Ethylene gas can also cause damage. If apples are stored with pototoes that have not been treated to prevent sprouting, the gas given off by the apples will cause the potatoes to sprout wildly.

Other enzymes break down the green pigment chlorophyll, which is replaced by other coloured pigments such as blue, yellow or red.