What Is Fruiting Maturity – Understanding Maturation Of Fruit

What Is Fruiting Maturity – Understanding Maturation Of Fruit

By: Amy Grant

Ever notice how sometimes the bananas at the grocers are more green than yellow? In fact, I buy the greener ones so they can gradually ripen on the kitchen counter, unless I want one to eat, of course. If you have ever tried to eat a green one, you probably noticed it was hard and not sweet. The producers of the bananas actually pick them when they are mature, but not yet ripe. This lengthens the amount of time they have to ship them. So what is fruiting maturity?

What is Fruiting Maturity?

Fruit development and maturation does not necessarily go hand in hand with ripening. Ripening may be part of the fruit maturation process, but not always. Take those bananas, for instance.

The growers pick the bananas when they are mature and ship them when they are unripe. The bananas continue to ripen off the tree, growing softer and sweeter. This is due to a plant hormone called ethylene.

Maturation of fruit is the most important factor with storage time and final quality. Some produce is picked at the immature stage. These include fruit and veggies like:

  • Green bell pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Summer squash
  • Chayote
  • Beans
  • Okra
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet corn

Other fruits and vegetables are picked when fully mature such as:

  • Tomato
  • Red peppers
  • Muskmelons
  • Watermelon
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash

The first group is often picked at its peak flavor before the fruit maturation of plants is reached. If allowed to reach full maturity and then picked, the quality and storage time would be compromised.

The second group picked fully mature produces higher amounts of ethylene, which hastens the ripening process and results in:

  • faster, more uniform ripening
  • decrease in chlorophyll (green color)
  • increase in carotenoids (red, yellow, and orange)
  • softened flesh
  • increase in characteristic aromas

Tomato, banana and avocado are examples of fruit that is mature at harvest, yet rather inedible until further ripening. Strawberries, oranges, boysenberries and grapes are fruits that need to complete the fruit maturation process on the plant.

Synopsis of Fruit Development and Maturation

So, obviously, the color of a fruit at the time of harvest is not always a good indicator of the maturation of fruit.

  • Growers look at optimal harvest dates, desirable size, yield, ease of harvest as their indicators of maturation.
  • Shippers look at the shipping and market quality. Can they get this product to the consumer in peak condition?
  • Consumers are most interested in the texture, flavor, appearance, cost and nutrition content of our produce.

All these rely on the fruit maturation process to get the end consumer the freshest, tastiest, most aromatic produce.

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Read more about General Fruit Care

Life Cycle of a Vegetable Plant

Successful gardeners know how much effort it takes to grow a delicious vegetable. Juicy, ripe tomatoes and crisp, sweet snap beans require extra nurturing that nature alone doesn’t always provide. Even hybrid plants bred for vigor and disease resistance need special attention. But the plant also exerts plenty of energy in the growth process. Pushing through the earth and reproducing takes a lot of work too, although a plant's efforts can be lost on a gardener amid tasks like staking, mulching, weeding, watering and harvesting. Distinct development phases show the transformative nature of vegetable growing.

A vegetable’s life cycle begins with a seed. Be it white or purple, smooth or dimpled, plump or wafer thin, each seed holds key structural and chemical components necessary to start growth. The growth triggers, however, are external. Water must trickle through a tiny hole on the seed’s surface, and the air or soil temperature must reach a certain temperature for the seed to emerge from dormancy. Once these activities occur, the first shoot and root emerge, reaching up and down respectively, as the germination phase progresses.

  • Successful gardeners know how much effort it takes to grow a delicious vegetable.
  • Pushing through the earth and reproducing takes a lot of work too, although a plant's efforts can be lost on a gardener amid tasks like staking, mulching, weeding, watering and harvesting.

About Cantaloupe Seeds

Plant cantaloupe seeds in high-fertility soil amended with mature compost. Composted soil retains water and balances the soil acidity/ alkalinity ratio. Cantaloupes need soil pH levels of 6.5 to 7.5. Improper pH balance reduces the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil, according to Cornell University.

Choose a full-sun area of the garden to plant cantaloupe and give it 3 to 12 feet to spread. One hill of cantaloupes is adequate for a family’s need. Plant six seeds per hill, 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Thin them to three plants when they have grown two to three leaves. Seeds germinate in three to five days when the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 10 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seed & Fruit Development

The number of seeds within a fruit is also tightly linked to fruit size and shape in species with multiple fused carpels. If only one ovule, or a subset of the total ovules, is fertilized, it can result in abnormal development close to the unfertilized ovules and fruit asymmetry (Figure 7c). Additionally, fruit size has been shown to be positively correlated with seed number in strawberry, kiwifruit, and apple. Generally, the more seeds a fruit contains, the bigger it is. The relationship between fertilization, seed development, fruit development, fruit size, and fruit shape explain why growers of some tree fruit crops (see Summary Chart) bring in supplemental pollinators to ensure that the maximum number of ovules within each flower are pollinated.

Carpel number determines the relationship between pollination, seed development & fruit development

A carpel is the structure which includes both the ovary and its associated ovule(s) in a flower. The number of carpels, and the degree of fusion between carpels, varies among plant species. The common tree fruit crops grown in California generally contain either a single carpel, or multiple fused carpels (see Summary Chart). For example, flowers of walnut, pistachio, and all crop species within the genus Prunus contain a single carpel (Figure 7a), while female kiwifruit flowers contain at least 30 fused carpels (Figure 7b).

After pollination and fertilization, carpels develop into the fruit tissue we eat (ovary) and the seeds within (ovules). Fruit development is initiated by growth regulating hormones produced by developing seeds. Because carpels ultimately develop into fruit tissue, the number of carpels in a flower determines the degree to which pollination and seed development is required to produce fruit. Flowers with one carpel only require fertilization of one of the two ovules to produce fruit. In contrast, species with multiple fused carpels require fertilization of a smaller proportion of the total ovules within a flower for fruit development. The growth regulating hormones produced by a subset of the total possible seeds are sufficient to initiate the development of fused carpels into fruit. As a result, normal fruit development is less dependent on seed development in species with multiple fused carpels.

Stages of Apple Tree Growth: What to Expect After Planting

An apple tree, much like a person, develops and changes as it matures. New to planting apple trees? Look through these stages of apple tree growth.

"It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man." — Henry David Thoreau

Year 1: Apple Variety Budded/Grafted to Rootstock

At Stark Bro's, in the first year of a grafted apple tree's life, it begins as an apple rootstock and a budded/grafted variety. This method is true for all varieties, including Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and more.

The rootstock determines certain characteristics for your tree as it grows, including its mature size and tolerance of water and cold weather. We choose these rootstocks for your trees to help you enjoy the best results when planted in your yard.

When you order your new apple tree, you will choose which size you want it to be at maturity: a dwarf (8-10 feet tall and wide), a semi-dwarf (12-15 feet tall and wide), or the occasional standard (18-25+ feet tall and wide). Be careful to choose the size best suited to your needs and available space. For more information on the differences in tree size, explore our article on Fruit Tree Sizes.

Year 2: Development of Top Growth (Dormant)

The apple tree will be shipped to you around the time of its second growing year. It will arrive bare-root (without a pot, and without soil around the root system) and dormant, in either spring or fall. The tree will also have been professionally pruned to help ensure transplant success from our nursery to your yard.

To see why we professionally prune your trees, check out our Pre-Pruning Fruit Trees article and accompanying video.

Year 2: Development of Top Growth (Leafed Out)

As your new apple tree gets established and breaks dormancy, you will see it put on new leafy growth. It is at this point that you will begin applying fertilizer and starting your growing season spray routine. Make sure you always follow product labels when it comes to applying any fertilizer or spray.

You can find additional suggestions in our article, Fruit Tree Care: Spray & Weed Control.

Years 3-4: Limb, Leaf, & Root Growth

A few years after planting in your yard, your healthy apple tree will have put on many branches and leaves and the trunk will have increased in diameter.

In the spring, you may start seeing your apple tree bloom and start setting its first fruit after pollination. If you prune while your tree is dormant, fertilize as needed in the spring, and keep your tree clear of weeds, disease and pests year round, it will be well on its way to producing crops of luscious apples for you to enjoy!

Years 5-6: Established Apple Tree

Your apple tree will be familiar with its environment and it will have developed a regular routine of when to grow, when to produce, and when to rest. It may be regularly blooming and fruiting by this point! Since there is variation in cultivars and environments, your results may differ.

Overbearing and other blooming problems may be on your radar, but can be easily avoided. Overbearing may could cause your tree to only bear biennially (every other year). We discuss 4 Benefits to Thinning Fruit Trees here in regard to overbearing and how to prevent it.

This article and these images should give you a good idea of what to expect, but keep in mind that each apple variety responds differently in its environment. That said, one thing that never changes (no matter what the variety) is the importance of quality care to ensure that your tree grows and bears properly throughout its life.

What stage are your apple trees at? Share your apple tree photos with us!


Once a flower has been fertilized, the ovary develops a seed, and the flower surrounding it falls away. The ovary then swells and becomes a fruit with the seed still inside it. Once the fruit is fully ripened, it falls to the ground where it either remains or is eaten by animals and excreted onto the ground at a different location. If exposed to the right combination of factors, the seed will grow into a seedling, and the process will begin again.

  • Once a passion flower reaches maturity, it is able to reproduce.
  • Fertilization is usually assisted by insect helpers that move from flower to flower collecting nectar and, in the process, depositing pollen grains in female parts of flowers.

Watch the video: Fruit: development and maturation.mp4