Bananas, much like avocados, seem to ripen in the blink of an eye. They go from green to brown overnight. It has become a joke because we have all probably experienced it. We buy bananas and we end up having to throw a bunch or half of a bunch away a few days later.
The good news is that we have some options that will help us save food by allowing us to eat the bananas before they get too ripe to enjoy. We can also save money and the hassle of having to go to the store to replace them.
What causes bananas to ripen?
To understand how to preserve bananas and hinder the ripening process, it stands to reason that we need an understanding of what catalyzes it, to begin with.
The main contributor to ripening in bananas and similar fruits like apples and tomatoes is ethylene gas production and release. The plant’s chlorophyll becomes degraded, which is why they turn from green to their various other colors such as red or yellow.
Ethylene also causes degradation of pectins within the fruits. This causes the fruits to soften. Starches, organic acids, and occasionally lipids are broken down into sugars. Now we know why ripened bananas are sweeter, softer, and better for banana bread.
How to inhibit ripening
The next question is how do we stall the ripening process long enough to get our money’s worth? There are three options that might do the trick.
Option 1: wrap the whole bunch
This is an option you may have encountered in the grocery store and not known what its purpose was. What it entails is to wrap the stems of the entire bunch of bananas with plastic wrap. You can unwrap the stems and rewrap them as you eat the bananas.
This method is effective because the cut or exposed areas of the stem would be off-gassing large amounts of ethylene. Wrapping the stems would at least partially prohibit the gas from contacting other areas of the banana bunch. It’s not a perfect solution, as it does not prevent 100% contact, but it makes a significant difference in longevity.
Option 2: wrap each individual stem
You do not have to keep the banana bunch together. You can split it apart and wrap each stem in plastic wrap separately. This is great for portability and convenience. You can grab a banana and go instead of having to unwrap and rewrap the bunch.
This method also might be slightly more effective and pragmatic. Each banana in the bunch is going to ripen at different rates. Separating them means that the bananas producing more ethylene will not affect those ripening slower, so they will end up lasting longer.
Option 3: using acid to prevent browning
This tip is specifically for keeping banana slices from browning. Cutting fruit or vegetable releases enzymes that react with oxygen and turn them brown by producing melanins.
The browning/oxidizing works best in warmth and with pH levels from 5.0 to 7.0. That is in the slightly acidic to neutral range on the pH scale. Adding an acid like lemon juice inhibits the ability of the enzymes to work, and your banana slices will stay looking pristine until you need them.