Packing your cart full of produce seemed like a brilliant idea during Sunday’s supermarket shop. An entire bunch of bananas? Of course, you’re going to eat ‘em all.
That is, however, until a few days later when you realize your bananas are turning a disgusting shade of poop brown—and fast.
The good news? Browning ‘nanas are totally safe to eat and can even be easier to digest thanks to decreased amounts of a type of fiber known as resistant starch and higher levels of antioxidants, says Abby K. Cannon, RD, a dietician in New York City. The even better news? You (yes, you!) have the power to slow down—and even prevent!—them from turning brown in the first place. (Because, TBH, you don’t have time to stock up on groceries more than once a week.) All you need is a few tricks. But first…
Why exactly do bananas turn brown?
Both the peel and the pulp of the fruit are subject to browning—but for different reasons. Start with the outside: the peel turns brown thanks to the ethylene gas bananas naturally produce. “Essentially, this gas breaks down acids and chlorophyll pigments, which are green, in the fruit, turning it first to yellow and then, as more gas develops, brown,” explains Cannon. Once the skin is removed, the fruit starts reacting to the air and turning brown as well as part of a process known as oxidation. Flashback to freshman science, anyone?
So, how can I keep my bananas from turning brown?
It all starts at the grocery store: First of all, avoid purchasing bananas in plastic produce bags, and let the peel do all the protecting (as it already does in nature). When you wrap—and, at home, store—your bananas in plastic or any type of bag, you trap the ethylene gas, which increases ripening, explains Cannon. So, skip the bag: a pro for Mother Earth and a pro for your produce (eh? eh?).
Once you get home, keep your bananas in a bunch where they tend to ripen slower and wrap the tips in saran wrap or a green option like beeswax wrap. While it won’t stop them from browning, covering the top of the peel limits the amount of ethylene produced and prevents the gas from escaping and exposing the rest of the fruit to this gas, explains Dana Gunders, author of Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook. “The more ethylene the bananas are exposed to, the quicker they’ll ripen.” And this is exactly why proper storing is essential for extending bananas’ lifespan.
News flash: ‘nanas aren’t the only food that produces this evil ethylene. So, pros recommend keeping them separate from other ethylene-producing produce like apples and avocados.
Also, take a close look at the bananas in your bunch. Are some of them bruised? Already browning? If so, move those bananas away from the rest of the bunch because one bruise can actually accelerate the aging process for others. An easy way to do this is by using a banana tree like Cannon. Hanging the fruit on this gadget helps circulate the air round the bananas and saves you from having fruit in every corner of your kitchen.
But what about putting them in the fridge or freezer?
Not a bad idea! While it’s best to keep bananas at room temperature until they’re ripe, feel free to throw them in the fridge or freezer to slow ripening and browning. This is especially true when you have a leftover banana: wrap it as you do with the tops, this time to avoid oxidation, and pop in the fridge. In colder temps, the peel or skin will turn brown fast, but this doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. To avoid this, consider cutting up ripe bananas into small pieces and placing in an air-tight jar or container. Added bonus: These frozen slices are easier to blend into smoothies and amp up that yummy thickness.
Okay, what if my bananas are already super-brown? Should I toss them?
Nope! Although overripe ones might look scary to you, dark brown or even black bananas can still be eaten and used. “Because of their higher sugar content, overripe bananas are great for baking and making banana ‘nice cream,’” says Cannon. Totally get it if you don’t want to eat them for a snack, but there’s no need to waste them.
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