For many people, purchasing a bunch of bananas is the ultimate act of hope in the face of experience.
I’m no different. My thinking generally goes, “If I buy these now, I’m set on breakfast for a week.” Then Thursday comes around, my ‘nanners have turned brown, and suddenly Friday’s looking like a toaster waffle sort of day. Sometimes I consider baking banana bread and pretending I meant to let them get overripe, but mostly I throw them away and feel bad.
There is another way. A better way. A way that requires nothing more than what is already likely to be in your kitchen.
Step 1: Preserve the Bunch: Wrap Stems with Plastic Wrap
To keep a bunch of bananas fresh for longer, wrap the stems in some plastic wrap. Re-cover the bananas with the wrap after removing one.
This method prevents ethylene gas, produced naturally in the ripening process, from reaching other parts of the fruit and prematurely ripening it. This technique is hit or miss, as the coverage from the plastic wrap is unlikely to fully prevent contact with the ethylene gas. It’s certainly better than nothing, though.
This explains a few common tricks about using bananas to ripen other fruits like avocados. Or quick-ripening bananas by storing them all in a bag together. Ethylene is actually used in the banana production facilities to induce ripening at just the right time to ensure that you buy a bunch of yellow (or greenish yellow) from your local grocer.
(The next step is my preferred method, and the one that the science appears to back up with the most evidence.)
Step 2: Separate, then Wrap the Stems
Sure, wrapping the whole stem section works, but why keep the bananas together? Since most bananas on a bunch ripen at slightly different rates, your prematurely ripe bananas are going to put off more ethylene gas which will only serve to make ALL the bananas ripen that much faster.
Divide and conquer! Separate the ripe fruit from the slightly-less-ripe, wrap their stems in plastic, then enjoy when you’re ready.
This should do a couple of things:
- prevent ethylene gas from initiating the ripening process on under-ripe bananas
- fully cover the stem to really forestall the off-gassing
- make your bananas more convenient to grab and enjoy on the go
And if you’re bothered by the stem wrapper, try opening your bananas from the opposite end like a monkey. You’ll get fewer stringy bits and have a convenient handle to hold onto while you eat. Also, no awkwardness for that final bite.
Step 3: Keep Banana Slices Fresh
To prevent your banana slices from browning, you can use the same trick you’ve seen for apples: acid!
Just toss your banana slices in some lemon juice to inhibit enzymatic browning. Full coverage, particularly on the cut sides, will help prevent the slices from turning brown. In addition to lemon juice, vinegar will also work. So would sulfuric acid, for that matter, but you probably don’t want to eat it afterwards.
The acid disrupts the enzymatic breakdown process and prevents your sweet, sweet banana slices from turning into mushy little brown hockey pucks.
A dab’ll do ya, so keep your acid in the teaspoon range. Or you’ll just have sour bananas.