The best way to store bananas

Do you know how many different ways there are to keep bananas fresh?

Nine. Yep. I’ve been searching the internet for weeks to find any tidbit I could that might solve the banana problem.

You know what problem I’m talking about. You buy a bunch of bananas to eat for breakfast, take with you as a healthy snack, but two days after bringing them home, your yellow bananas have turned black.

Bananas begin to ripen the moment they are removed from the tree.

Bananas are picked when they're very green, usually 2 weeks before they arrive at your grocery store. They’re shipped in refrigerated containers that are designed to control the amount of ethylene the bananas are exposed to. They’re kept in special ripening rooms at grocery store warehouses and then shipped in refrigerated trucks to your local grocery store.

You and I are talking about trying to get just one more week out of a bunch of bananas. Just one more week out of an already two week old banana that has been shipped across the world.

Here are 9 ways to store bananas

1. Store them in or with some kind of product that with neutralize ethylene. Most of these products contain zeolite, a kind of volcanic ash, which is meant to absorb ethylene gas from the air, thus protecting nearby fruits and veggies from the ripening effects of ethylene. These bags and this egg are good examples.

2. Cut off the banana stem as close to the banana as possible without exposing the insides. This tip was suggested in a forum and is untested.

3. Simply separate the bananas from each other. From this experiment.

4. Separate the bananas from the bunch and wrap their stems with plastic or tinfoil. From this blog post.

5. Separate the bananas and wrap them individually in cling wrap, then keep them in the refrigerator. From this video.

6. Separate the bananas from the bunch and dip the stems in wax. Also suggested in a forum.

7. Keep the bananas together in a bunch and wrap all of the stems with cling wrap or tinfoil. From this Instructable.

8. Let them ripen on the counter and then store them in the fridge. This article explains why banana skin turns black in the fridge and why they need to be fully ripe before refrigeration.

9. Hang the bunch of bananas from a hook or use a banana hammock. The traditional kind... One idea is that the bananas will be separated from other fruits so they aren't exposed to excess ethylene. Another idea is that ethylene is heavier than air and will sink below the bananas, sparing them from becoming too ripe. Both thoughts were found in forums and are untested.

The main questions seem to be; counter vs. fridge and keep whole vs. separate.


Experiment

I’ve been hearing a lot about wrapping the bananas in cling wrap and tinfoil so I wanted to test that idea myself. I bought one banana bunch and separated them from each other. I wrapped one banana three ways: in tinfoil, in cling wrap, and one in melted wax. I left the fourth banana plain to compare with the other ones.


I kept all four of them separate from other fruits and veggies, otherwise they stayed together. Who has room to keep all of their bananas separately around the house?

After four days they were all perfectly ripe with brown spots. They definitely ripened at the same speed.

This makes me think that perhaps simply separating them would have been more efficient than wrapping their stems.

I haven't had much luck finding the original theory behind this method. It may have been inspired by waxed pears. Maybe someone thought you could trick the banana into thinking it's still attached to the tree by covering the stem. Maybe someone thought that ethylene was only released through the stem. Either way, it seems clear to me that any gains created by wrapping the stem would be minimal at best.


Two surprising lessons learned

  1. I grew up keeping bananas on the counter and was surprised to learn that many people keep them in the fridge. Bananas are refrigerated almost the entire time they're being transported, so it's not much of a stretch to think they should continue to be refrigerated at home.
  2. When I first heard that bananas turn brown in the fridge, I assumed they somehow became overripe. Bananas are still sensitive to cold temperate and their peel will turn brown after a while in the fridge. This doesn't mean the banana has gone bad. The skin turns brown due to cold damage, not due to ripening. The banana underneath the peel will stay fresh.

I'd love to hear if any of these methods have worked for you and anything you suggest I do differently for the next experiment.


For fun, here are three banana bonuses!

I really enjoyed this episode from NPR about bananas. 

And musical stylings by Chiquita banana and Fred Pinsocket Loves Bananas. (Warning: my husband has had the Fred Pinsocket song stuck in his head for months now. Listen at your own risk).


I teach people how to cook and eat real food with confidence so that you can have less stress, better health, and WAY more fun in the kitchen and in life.

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