Bananas are a popular fruit around the world and for good reasons. For one, bananas are a great source of potassium, which improves heart health and blood pressure. Bananas also aid digestion, provide energy and improve skin health. These benefits alone are reasons to keep a bunch of bananas in your kitchen.
Picking bananas can be a challenge. You’re probably wondering, “How hard could buying bananas really be?” The appearance of the bananas you buy determines how long you can enjoy them.
While green bananas have a longer shelf life, they aren’t ripe and have an unpleasant, bitter taste. When bananas are yellow, they’re nearly ripe, however, they haven’t reached their peak. A yellow banana with brown freckle-like dots indicates ripeness and the banana’s peak sweetness.
If you find yourself throwing away bananas often, it may be due to buying ripe bananas or storing techniques.
Here are some tips for keeping bananas fresh for longer.
What Causes Bananas to Brown
Banana peel browning is a natural part of the ripening process. One of the main causes of banana peel browning is ethylene. Ethylene is a hormone that converts complex sugars into simple sugars. Ethylene also breaks down pectin, causing the banana to lose its hard texture.
These hormones are also responsible for breaking down the unripe green green pigments and replacing them with the banana’s signature yellow pigment. Brown bananas, however, are a sign of overripening. Bananas’ yellow pigment breaks down, resulting in a brown color.
If your bananas ripen at a rapid rate, it may be due to damage. Peeled, bruised, or cut bananas release Polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme that combines with oxygen to create a chemical reaction. This reaction produces melanin, or a brown pigmentation. Enzyme-related reactions minimize the shelf life of your bananas.
Tips for Optimal Banana Freshness
If you’re tired of throwing away your bananas, there are many ways to keep bananas fresh. One is to wrap the bunch. After taking one, simply re-wrap the remaining stems in plastic wrap. Covering the stems delays the ripening process by hindering ethylene gas from spreading throughout the fruit.
You can also use the same technique on individual bananas. Bananas ripen at different rates, even on the same stem. Once one banana begins to ripen, ethylene gas prematurely ripens the remaining bananas.
If you buy a bunch of bananas and notice one is relatively ripe, it’s best to separate them and plastic wrap each stem. As each banana ripens, you can leave the plastic wrap and open it from the opposite end. That way, you can have a sturdy handle and fewer strings as you eat your banana.
There’s a cool technique you can use to keep slices from browning. Like apples, banana slices are preserved in acidic liquids. These include lemon juice and vinegar. Be sure not to oversaturate them in acid. Start with a teaspoon and add as necessary to prevent sour banana slices.
Forms of Banana Storage
Did you know bananas’ shelf life varies based on storage? For instance, if you plan on storing your bananas on the counter, be sure to take them out of your produce bag. Otherwise, moisture builds up in the bananas, causing them to rot. Place them on your counter without direct sunlight.
If you don’t mind the outer appearance of your banana peel, try storing them in the fridge. While your peels will brown or even blacken, the banana itself remains fresh for weeks. Make sure they’re already ripe before refrigeration. If you’re storing sliced bananas, you can place them in a plastic container with pineapple juice to preserve them and add a touch of sweetness.
If you’re overstocked and can’t finish your bananas quick enough, freezing them is a great preservation technique. You can leave them whole or sliced, as long as you remove the peel before freezing. It’s nearly impossible to remove frozen peels, and defrosted bananas in the peel lose their firmness.
Store frozen bananas in freezer-safe bags or containers. If you have time, it’s wise to portion your bananas before freezing. This makes it easier to add to smoothies, bread, and other recipes during thawing. Frozen bananas last for several months.
Bananas are rich with vitamins and nutrients. Whether you buy unripe or ripe bananas, you deserve the opportunity to enjoy them. Use these techniques to delay the ethylene gas reaction and premature ripening. Be sure to also store your bananas according to how quickly you plan on eating them. These tips will allow us to control waste, one banana at a time.