The journey of Bananas to Europe – From Growth to Ripen
The banana is one of the most popular fruits in Europe. Almost all bananas consumed come from Central America and the Philippines. In these countries, the bananas grow for approximately 9 months. They are then harvested in an unripe state, thus their greenish color. After harvesting, the fruits are made ready for export. In this step, the bananas are inspected, sorted, washed and packed into boxes. These boxes are transported to Europe by ship. The travel takes up to 20 days, during which the valuable fright is cooled down to about 13 °C. At this temperature, the maturation process is brought to a standstill. When the ship arrives in Europe, the bananas still retain their green color. A further pretreatment is necessary to allow the ripening process to continue. Only then do the fruits obtain their common yellow color. In specifically developed ripening facilities, the maturity of the bananas is developed within 4-8 days. For this purpose, banana ripening gas, a mixture of ethylene/nitrogen, is used. Ethylene is a phytohormone that is necessary in all plants for the production and maturation of the fruit body. Beyond a certain degree of maturation the banana forms ethylene itself, but only by additional gassing with ethylene is the maturation process brought under control. After this process, the bananas have the desired yellow color.
Application of Ethylene as Banana Ripening Gas
Ethylene itself is a highly flammable gas that is not used in its pure form for banana ripening. Pure ethylene would proceed the maturing process much too fast, without any control. Four percent by volume of ethylene in nitrogen is enough for effective use. This concentration is chosen because the amount is sufficient for the process and the gas mixture is not flammable in air so that a safe and controlled ripening of fruits is possible. Messer offers this gas mixture under the name Plantline E4.
Banana gas belongs to the category of Plant Protection Products (PPPs). On this account, it is subjected to the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, which repealed the Directive 91/414/EEC.