Bananas turn brown for a variety of reasons. When you cut open a banana, the oxygen affects enzymes in the banana, turning the inside brown. When a banana turns brown on the outside, it is because the banana’s yellow pigment is broken down and not replaced, producing a brown color. Knowing the science behind why bananas ripen is important for keeping them fresh, tasty, and edible. Here are some ways to keep bananas from ripening too fast.
Preserving Bananas in the Peel
Purchase bananas that are green on the ends and yellow in the middle. This means they are slightly under-ripe.
Make sure the bananas have no brown spots or blemishes. Bruises and punctures leave the banana exposed to air, which speeds up the ripening process.
Do not choose bananas that are already yellow. Bananas ripen at a rapid pace and their shelf-life is very short. For this reason, you want to make sure you buy bananas that are on the greener side; this will give you more time to properly store your bananas before the ripening process occurs.
Store bananas at room temperature until they are ripe. Avoid exposing them to heat as this will speed up the ripening process.
Do not place bananas in the fridge before they are ripe. This can actually have a reverse effect and turn your banana peels brown faster. This occurs because the cold causes the cell walls to break down prematurely, which allows the production of melanin, turning bananas completely black. Ironically, the inside of the banana will still not be ripe since the cold inhibits the ripening process of the actual fruit.
Hang your bananas on a banana hanger. This prevents it from getting bruised and becoming exposed to air. You can also seal the stem of the banana bunch with plastic wrap. This limits the amount of oxygen the stem receives and can keep bananas fresh for another week.
Keep your bananas separate from other fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables give off a special hormone that speeds up ripening. Storing produce together can speed up the ripening process. Curiously, ripening is contagious. Plants naturally produce a hormone called ethylene, which causes it to ripen. Fruits or vegetables that are already brown give off more ethylene than normal, causing nearby fresh produce to ripen faster.
Do not store bananas in sealed bags. This will cause the bananas to turn brown faster because the ethylene hormone will be unable to escape from the air surrounding the bananas.
Place bananas in the refrigerator once they are ripe. Now that the ripening process has begun, you can safely delay it with the application of cold temperature.
To stop ripening, you need to slow down the chemical reaction created by ethylene. Cold temperatures will slow down the circulation of ethylene and delay the inside of the banana from ripening.
Do not be alarmed if your banana peel turns completely black, which it most likely will. This is due to the pigment of the peel turning black and does not have anything to do with the actual freshness of the banana. The banana should still taste flavorful and remain slightly firm.
Preserving Peeled Bananas
Place peeled bananas in an airtight plastic container and put in the freezer. You can thaw the bananas for use at a later date.
Although peeled bananas have no protection against air exposure, the airtight sealing acts to limit the amount of fresh air that the bananas get. The freezing temperature will slow down the ethylene emission more than simply refrigerating it.
Unlike refrigerated bananas, frozen bananas will not be edible immediately. You will need to leave bananas at room temperature for about an hour to allow them to thaw.
Brush the banana in lime or lemon juice. The acidity acts as a preserving agent and keeps the banana yellow longer.
You do not need to saturate the banana in lemon juice. Adding more lemon does not equal better preservation. It will also make your banana taste cloyingly sour.
For sweeter alternatives, replace lemon juice with pineapple, orange, or apple juice. These are all acidic enough to slow the browning process without needing to be diluted. Apple juice is also mild enough to be nearly undetectable; opt for the other juices if you plan on later mixing the banana with other fruit.
Dip peeled bananas in a vinegar water solution. This also uses acidity to preserve the banana but uses vinegar instead of fruit juice. Using vinegar is a nice alternative if other fruit juices are distortingthe taste too much. Simply add 1/4 cup of vinegar for every cup of water. Dip the banana, sliced or whole, into the water for about 3 minutes.
Avoid leaving bananas in the vinegar water solution for longer than 3 minutes. Submerging the banana can cause it to become too soft and can impart a strong vinegary taste, which is likely less appetizing than lemon or lime juice.
Soak bananas in a water solution with crushed vitamin C. If you don’t have access to other fruits or vinegar, vitamin C can achieve a similar effect when dissolved in water.
Crush a single vitamin C tablet with a spoon and sprinkle it in a glass of water. Stir the solution with a spoon and dip your bananas in the water for a few seconds.
Effervescent vitamin C tablets work especially well for this. Put one tablet in a glass of water. Once the effervescing stops, skip stirring and dip your bananas in the water immediately for a few seconds.
Over-Ripe Banana Recipes
Bake banana bread. Just because you may not have saved all bananas from ripening doesn’t mean you can’t use them in tasty treats.
Banana bread is actually the sweetest and most flavorful when over-ripe bananas are used. For bananas considered a “lost cause,” banana bread is usually the answer.
Bananas are actually edible longer than you might imagine. As long as your banana does not have mold, fruit flies, or traces of fruit fly eggs, it will most likely be edible regardless of its softness or blackness.
Blend a Biscoff banana apple smoothie. Throw your over-ripe bananas into the blender with a few other ingredients and create a tasty drink. All you need is one over-ripe banana, half an apple peeled and cored, four Biscoff cookies (can be purchased at most grocery stores), a dash of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, one cup of milk, and a handful of ice cubes.
Place the banana, apple, and Biscoff cookies into the blender first and mix until smooth. Add the other ingredients and continue blending. You can continue adding milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency.
For added texture, add whole oats or blend them into the smoothie as well. This will give your smoothie a crunchy element to offset the richness.
Freeze melted bananas into Bananas Foster Popsicles. Bananas Foster is a popular New Orleans dessert and is very simple to make.
You will need 2 large, very ripe bananas that have been thinly sliced; 2 tablespoons of brown sugar; 1 tablespoon of butter; 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon; 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt; 1/2 cup of milk; 1 teaspoon of vanilla; and 1 teaspoon of rum extract.
First, add your bananas, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon to a small bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until the bananas are soft. Stir this mixture. Allow the bananas to cool, then add the mixture to a blender along with the Greek yogurt, milk, vanilla, and rum extract. Blend these ingredients. Pour the blended mixture into Popsicle molds and place them in the freezer for a few hours until they are completely frozen through. Pop them out of the Popsicle mold when you are ready to serve.
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