No matter what time of year it is you can always count on finding the trusty banana most anywhere food is sold.
And Americans are always ready to enjoy them, eating, on average, 28 pounds per year, per person.
While you would probably never put a bunch in the fridge, bananas are a lot more delicate when it comes to cold temps than you might think. But surprisingly, under certain conditions refrigeration can be a banana’s best friend.
Tropical in temperament, bananas know no seasonal constraints. Grown year-round in Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras, their famed flavor — and less-known health benefits — are readily available 24/7/365.
However, it’s the bananas’ attachment to the tropics that exposes their more delicate side: They simply hate the cold. From plantation to homefront unpeelings, even a momentary brush with frostiness can ruin the look, taste and nutrition of bananas. Farmers, shippers and handlers fully understand this temperature sensitivity. After harvesting, bananas are strictly maintained at between 56 and 58 degrees; the strictest temperature window of any fruit. Even the proper ripening temperature for bananas is a narrow 59- to 68-degree range.
Consumers should also be aware of the preferred temperature range. Refrigerating unripe bananas or even momentarily exposing them to a winter chill during transport from grocery to home can spell ruin. The skin on chill-damaged bananas will take on an odd greyish look. What’s more, the flesh within is no longer undergoing a ripening process, during which starches are converted to sugar.
As all consumers know, bananas can hit the shelves in full jungle greenness and hardness. This is often a sign that demand surpassed the banana industry’s preferred method of ripening bananas in warehouses — until they reach the more marketable look of yellow with green tips on the fruit.
When home-ripening, a green banana greatly appreciates a mild, dark place to develop. It buddies up amazingly well with nearby apples or tomatoes, which spike the ripening process, as is explained at the website www.chiquita.com: “To ripen the banana faster, seal it in a brown paper bag with an apple or tomato overnight. This allows the natural gases in the fruits to speed up the ripening when combined in a dark place.”
Fully yellow bananas (small brown dots on the yellow skin are a sure sign of ultimate ripening) have not only reached the height of flavor, but have also hit the nutritional peak that qualifies the banana as a superfood.
While bananas are famed for their high potassium levels, they also contain carbohydrates that offer a quick energy boost and 1.5 grams of protein to help feed muscles. With approximately 120 calories and 16 grams of sugar, the average banana is a dieter’s delight as well.
One troubling habit of a bunch of bananas is that they usually all ripen at the same time, begging to be quickly eaten then and there. At this point, further ripening would be counterproductive. Enter, of all thing, coldness – this time to do a favor.
The best storage for soft, yellow bananas is their former bane — namely, the fridge.
Although refrigeration of ripe bananas takes away any skin-deep eye-appeal, as the peel will turn dark, the insides will be ripe and ready for many a recipe. Smoothies, nut breads, banana cakes, ice cream sundaes, even daiquiris and tropical drinks, all shine with the flesh of refrigerated bananas.
One banana eye-opener — and top taste-tempter – is a chocolate baked banana recipe, found at www.bbcgoodfood.com.
Heat oven to 375.
Ingredients: Bananas and a bag of chocolate chips!
Make a slit through the skin of your bananas along one side – making sure you don’t cut all the way through to the other side.
Poke in mini-chocolate chips along the cut. Put each banana onto a sheet of foil and crimp the edges together to seal into a parcel. Transfer to a baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes until the bananas have turned black (or pop straight into the BBQ embers for 15 minutes).
Serve with a scoop of ice cream and any melted chocolate that may have escaped!