It seems like most fruits that we consume undergo some sort of ripening process either before or after they are picked from the vine, tree, etc. I understand that sugars are released during the ripening process and this is why ripe fruits are sweeter and more palatable than non-ripe fruits.

Why, though, do fruits have to undergo this process of ripening?

Wouldn't it be simpler to just grow and already be "ripe"? Does the ripening process confer some sort of advantage to the plant?

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    $\begingroup$ I think that's like asking "Why can't an arm instantly be a functioning arm?" Arms and legs are complex structures that take time to fully develop. Likewise, fruits are complex things that can't just instantly appear fully developed, or "ripe." Moreover, fruit are really little more than a vehicle for seed dispersal, and the seeds themselves need time to develop. My roundabout answer may merely dodge the questions - but I suspect the answer may be that it would be counterproductive for fruit to ripen before 1) the seeds are developed, or 2) the proper conditions for seed dispersal exist. $\endgroup$ Mar 6 '16 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidBlomstrom that would make a lot of sense - I don't know much about botany, but if the seeds aren't developed before the fruit is ripe that would be a reason that you wouldn't want to grow a "ripened" fruit. I guess I was thinking about it from a fruit consumer perspective, not a plant development one - thanks for your comment! $\endgroup$ Mar 6 '16 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that there could be other, more specific, reasons, though. $\endgroup$ Mar 6 '16 at 4:37

Mature, viable seeds have to form in most fruits, which involves the maturation of embryonic tissue. That can take a little time, from just a few days in some weed species to months and perhaps longer in some fruits like pineapple.


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