The process where a fruit matures and becomes more edible.
Ripening refers to the process where a fruit matures. A part of this is that the edible part of the fruit become more palatable and typically sweeter. This makes it more attractive to animals which eat the fruit and help to propagate the plant. Gardeners and farmers harvest the fruit at a point where it is ripe enough to eat, or for fruit that can ripen off the plant, with enough lead time that the fruit is ripe when it is about to be consumed (e.g. bananas).
Ripening usually includes increasing levels of sugar and flavor, but also it is often accompanied with an increase in acidity. This is balanced by the increase in sugars so that it does not taste tart. Ripening is usually accompanied by a change in fruit color and an increase in softness.
Use this tag for questions about ripening, eg. when is a particular fruit ripe enough to pick, how can particular fruit be force ripened.