Bananas On The Tree
While the commercial banana is limited to the tropics, there are a number of edible banana varieties that will grow in temperate climates – USDA Zones 7 to 10. These bananas can be ripened on the tree in many cases. Signs of ripeness vary with variety, but in most cases, a ripe banana will be fully colored (most are red or yellow) and the skin will be spotted brown or black.
When Bananas Don’t Ripen Properly
Some commercial bananas don’t ever ripen properly – they go straight from unripe to over-ripe and then begin to rot. This is usually the result of storage issues during transportation. Not moving them into cold storage soon enough or wide temperature swings during transport are likely to cause this problem. Some can be salvaged for baking but many must be discarded.
Stages of Banana Ripening
Bananas go through distinct stages during the ripening process. They are as follows:
- Peel is fully green and the banana is hard.
- Center of banana begins to turn yellow; tips are green.
- Small brown spots begin to develop on the peel.
- Peel is heavily spotted with brown.
- Most of peel is dark brown or black.
When to Eat the Banana
Eating unripe bananas can cause gastric distress. Unripe bananas are also less flavorful, because they aren’t as sweet. A yellow banana with no brown spots may look ripe, but it really isn’t. The peel is thicker, the flavor isn’t as good and it’s harder to peel the banana. For eating out of hand, choose a banana that is fully spotted with brown.
The Overripe Banana
While a banana will eventually rot, many people consider bananas that are heavily spotted with brown or even those with blackened peels as only fit for compost. However, these bananas are much sweeter and have a more intense banana flavor than those that have yellow peels with a few brown spots. So-called overripe bananas are perfect for making banana bread or muffins.
Ripening Bananas More Quickly
You can speed up the ripening process. Place the banana(s) in a paper bag on the kitchen counter. The fruit produces ethylene gas, which speeds ripening – commercial bananas are usually ripened with this gas. Add a full ripe apple or tomato to the paper bag to increase the ethylene gas and speed the ripening process even more.