I always regret buying bananas after a few days because often they overripe into mushy and soft mass. Taste and texture of bananas are directly related to its ripeness, so the best way to enjoy bananas is at their peak. During ripening, starch in a firm astringent tasting green banana converts into sugars to give sweet and creamy fruit we all love. Yellow bananas with a few brown spots with soft (but not mushy) texture are in peak of their flavor.
Accumulated reserve stored starch, which is about one fourth of weight of a fresh unripe banana, is completely converted into soluble sugars during ripening. Initially, the sweetness in a ripe banana is given by sucrose, which is the table sugar. Later in an overripe banana, 12 carbon sucrose is broken down into two 6-carbon hexose sugars, such as fructose, which is relatively sweeter than sucrose – hence increased sweetness in overripe banana.
Bananas like other fruits (e.g. tomato, avocado, apple) produce high enough ethylene gas to increase the fruit ripening. Thus, often those fruits are placed in paper bag to hasten ripening by confining ethylene within the bag. So, the traditional way of hanging banana sounds very logical. It allows maximum dissipation of ethylene gas to the air, allowing the longest shelf life without use of any modern technology.
Naturally, I had to buy a banana hanger. After much search, I found one at the Container Store in my neighborhood. However, being curious, I ran a simple experiment. I took two bananas from the same bunch and stored in four different ways;
hanging in the new banana hanger
in a clear plastic bag on countertop
Here are the pictures of bananas after 72 hours of storage.
Hanging bananas indeed resulted in the balanced ripening. The bananas stored on countertop produced one sided mushy bananas. The bananas inside the plastic bag had fewer brown spots (maybe due to lack of oxygen) but tasted sweetest and were mushiest. Once bananas are stored in temperature lower than 10°C or 50°F, the rate of respiration decreases, which slows down the ripening process. However, chilling bananas also results in discoloration of peel.
So, how to store bananas? My recommendation is use a (banana) hanger to ripen bananas. After perfect ripening point to your culinary preference, enjoy the nature’s gift. If you don’t mind the peel discoloration, transfer remaining bananas inside a refrigerator to increase its shelf life by few days. If you are in for even longer haul, peel banana and freeze them. The frozen ones go well with any smoothies. Make sure to individually freeze bananas and refreeze them in freezer burn proof Ziploc bag. For sure, now, I won’t be hesitant to buy bananas.
PS. I wrote according to your “culinary preference” because, depending on your personal preference or type of food, you may want different ripeness. For example, you may want super-ripe bananas for banana bread but may prefer less sweet ones when you snack or even with different ripeness when you are mixing them with your morning cereal.
Posted in: Food Science | Tags: banana and ethylene gas, banana ripening, best way to store banana, how banana ripe, sucrose and fructose in banana