Bananas are a pretty sweet fruit – and I don’t mean in its taste, though it clearly does taste sweet. No, I mean “sweet” in the context of being an extraordinarily versatile fruit. Bananas pack a level of nutrients that shouldn’t be able to fit in such a tiny package.
There is one major flaw with this delectable fruit.
Bananas do not care when you want to eat them. Instead they make you wait until they decide they’re ready. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my food telling me when, or where, I can devour it. If I want that brownie, guess what, I’m going to eat that brownie.
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But bananas? Well… They are a little different than most foods. You have to wait until they are ripe if you want to enjoy them in their full glory. That is why I have gone to war with the ripening process, so I can enjoy bananas (and any other fruit for that matter) when I please.
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How to hasten the ripening of bananas
There are a few ways to make a banana reach maximum ripeness quicker than normal, but the most effective is the age-old banana in bag trick.
- Putting a banana in a brown paper bag captures the gas called ethylene. Ethylene is the ripening agent that causes a fruit to, well, ripen.
- You can also add another fruit in the bag to double the ethylene output and cut the ripening time down some
How and why this works
What ethylene does is work on the sugars that are naturally produced in every fruit (that is why fruits are known to be so sweet) and causes the banana to soften and brown. If you have ever wondered why a banana will go brown so quickly, it is because of the compound ethylene.
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This ethylene compound works inside of most every fruit, and must be given enough time to work before you can enjoy the fruits that you love most. So now anytime somebody asks you why fruit goes bad so quickly you can tell them, with confidence, ETHYLENE. (Maybe don’t say it in all caps though.)
Keep them together
When you are waiting for bananas to ripen there are a few things that you want to keep in mind. One of those things is the saying “bananas that grow together ripen together”. Keep your bananas on the hand (that is the term for a bunch of bananas) that they grew on so that they ripen at a consistent rate.
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One at a time
If you want to eat a banana, or use it for any other reason, take them off one by one. Also, if you want them to ripen a little slower than normal then you might try keeping them separated from each other. After all, the ethylene will be produced at a higher rate if you have more of them together.
Another thing you might want to remember is that you want to have them stored in warmer environments if you want them to ripen at a decent speed. Ethylene works best in an optimal temperature range, which are at warmer temperatures.
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Also known as the aging hormone of plants, ethylene doesn’t just ripen. Ethylene is responsible for the changes in color, texture, softening, and even the taste of fruits. Not all fruits are affected the same by this hydrocarbon gas. For example, berries do not produce a significant amount of ethylene and therefore are not affected much by its side effects.
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Take the good, take the bad
What is interesting about the ethylene gas is that it can have both a positive and a negative effect. For instance, it is awesome for humans because it makes our foods delicious. But it is also what causes plants to die. (That is what the ripening process is really. In a sense, we are killing bananas by putting them in paper bags, hastening their demise.)
Ethylene has a whole host of negative qualities about it, and is sort of a mass murderer of plant life. It causes stem shortening, can kill off crops if not kept at bay, softens plant stems, and even can cause the abortion of plant parts – imagine a flower with no petals, how sad.
Thankfully though, plants also produce anti-ethylene chemicals that balance out the ethylene gas and help keep our flower beds from growing petal-less flowers.
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Wrap – Up
I hope parts about ethylene and its murderous ways didn’t get you down too much. And if it did, just remember, that it is also what gives us the sweet taste of bananas that we have grown to love throughout our lives.
So use that death gas to your benefit (remember, I did say I was waging war on the ripening process) and make your bananas ripen with the speed you say they should. That is how we win the war of banana ripeness.