Newly Registered
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:02 am

POP QUIZ: What Vegetable is the Most Air Absorbant?

Hi Everybody,

I'm new to the forum (Hello!) and I recently had a really awesome experience.

My wife and I moved into a new apartment and the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) from the paint have been knocking us out.

My wife did some research and found that onions actually absorb these chemicals. It's actually true. We put a rather disassembled onion on a plate on a stand in the office and it really helped clean the air.

So yeah, there's the tomato makes avocados go ripe faster possibility but this was actually pretty revealing.

So, my mind is now asking me, if there is one vegetable out there that can absorb chemical or industrial room compounds from paint or whatever better than any other (and maybe synthetics if tested)...what could that plant possibly be?

Is it even a vegetable? Even further, could you test a plant to know what's in the room with the right equipment? I know this has to be the uber-geeky question of the...give it a time frame on the forum. But I would be lying if I weren't curious...What vegetable is the most air-absorbent?

If anybody has any background or research on this topic I'm curious as to what the results could be.

In any case, thanks for reading! :)

User avatar
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: POP QUIZ: What Vegetable is the Most Air Absorbant?

Well, if you are going to go all geeky, air absorbent is the wrong term. What the onion absorbed was not the air, but the VOCs out of the air. What you mean is something like air-filtering, air-purifying.

I tried to look, but apparently hadn't figured out how to find an answer to your question, but I'm thinking there isn't one answer. This is from a little article about shipping produce, what not to ship together:

Today, let’s take a look at the odor absorption tendencies. Below are the most crucial notes for odor absorption as per the industry recognized authority on the subject, the University of California – Davis. The notes below advise on what products should not be mixed in order to avoid odor absorption.

1. Odors from apples and pears are absorbed by cabbage, carrots, celery, figs, onions, and potatoes
2. Avocado odor is absorbed by pineapple.
3. Celery absorbs odor from apple, carrot, and onion.
4. Citrus absorbs odor from strongly scented fruits and vegetables.
5. Ginger odor is absorbed by eggplant.
6. Sulfur dioxide released from the pads that are used to ship table grapes will be absorbed and damage other produce.
7. Green onion odor is absorbed by fig, grape, corn, mushroom, and rhubarb.
8. Leek odor is absorbed by apple, pear, citrus, and celery.
9. Onion odor is absorbed by apple, pear, citrus, and celery.
10. Pepper odor is absorbed by avocado, pineapple, and beans. ... -load.html

I know this isn't directly an answer to your question, but the point is different odors (i.e. different aromatic molecules in the surrounding atmosphere) are absorbed differently by different veggies. Therefore the answer to the question of what veggie would be best to filter X molecules out of the air is very dependent on what X is.

In general houseplants are known for air purification. Specifically re your VOC's:

While most leafy plants are adept at purifying indoor air, some of the plants that scientists have found most useful in removing VOCs include Japanese royal ferns, spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants and peace lilies. ... n-air.html

In the late '80s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us the plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air. Other studies have since been published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science further proving the science. Want to see the best flowers? Just click through the buttons above to see all 15 plants. ... -fresh-air

Using living plants like this to filter/purify air, water, soil, is called phytoremediation.

People also use baking soda to absorb odors out of the air.

User avatar
Senior Member
Posts: 162
Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:03 pm
Location: Southern California Desert

Re: POP QUIZ: What Vegetable is the Most Air Absorbant?

Not a vegetable, but, along with baking soda, I've used vinegar throughout the ages to absorb odors, especially after cooking fish. Just fill a bowl and leave it on the counter. I don't know if it technically removes actual toxins (VOCs) like the live plants do, (not sure if onions remove toxins either) but vinegar definitely takes away the odor. My mom used to simmer a pan of vinegar/water. That smelled almost as bad as the smell it was supposed to remove!

Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”