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Weekly Alibi
 Jan 31 - Feb 6, 2008 

Bad Apples Spoil the Lot

By Chef Boy Ari

Q: Dear Flash,

What’s up with the expression about “one bad apple?” I mean, I guess I understand what it means because I’m looking at my stash of rotten apples from last fall. But why is it that one bad apple can ruin the whole batch?

—Sister Apple Sludge

A: Dear SAS,

Ripening fruit gives off a gas called ethylene, which acts like a plant hormone because it induces physiological changes in plant cells. Like yawns, colds and other contagion, ethylene can cause a self-fueling chain reaction among fruit that’s kept in close proximity to other fruit in a non-ventilated space. For the most dramatic example of ethylene in action, try wrapping a banana in plastic and see how fast it ripens itself.

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