Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brown Bananas & Teenagers

Bananas are great because they are cheap sources of starch and potassium. For most of us also, they are fairly cheap at well under a dollar per pound. Consider that against strawberries at around $4 per pound and other berries at nearly twice that price. My only problem is that unlike other fruit, once in your market, bananas really only have a shelf life of about 5 - 7 days before they get uncomfortably sweet, mushy and covered in brown spots.

By the start of the second week if you have not cut that banana up into your cereal or passed it along to your pet monkey, the only remaining uses will be in banana bread, shakes, and thickener for off-brand hair gel. Most people prefer slightly ‘un-ripened’ bananas with a full yellow skin, green tip, and few spots. The brown spots are simply the carbohydrates converting to sugar and are a good relative marker for sweetness of the fruit. Don’t you wish other fruit (or children) were as kind to tell you when they are going to be REALLY SWEET? How many times have you purchased a perfectly good looking watermelon or cantaloupe that passed the ‘thump’ test but was still really flavorless inside?

For about 8 years when I lived in a warmer climate, I grew dwarf bananas for fun. They are just like full sized bananas and taste the same but they are about half the size. I loved those trees because they mostly took care of themselves and always looked leafy and tropical green even when not producing fruit. But when the bananas started to show up, then we were in a mad dash to get rid of hands upon hands of bananas to everyone we knew. They were ‘fingers’ energy for fast snacks and sack lunches but they ripened very quickly and reproduced even faster.

My daughter once did a study on the gas production given off by bananas. During ripening, they exude minute quantities of ethylene gas (a fruit hormone) which if in close proximity to other bananas encourages faster maturing. Professional growers actually induce ethylene into a high humidity environment to get bananas to ripen all at the same time. This makes shipping easier and the consumer receives better tasting and more consistent quality fruit. This is true of other fruit as well so generally, if you want to keep your bananas and fruit from ripening, browning, and growing old too quickly, separate them and keep them away the sun and each other. See now, you never knew how much you could learn about parenting from a greasy brown banana. Just keep your hormonal teens away from each other and the sun so they will stay young longer and age tan-less and spot- free!


  1. How cool that you grew your own bananas! I love 'em and we eat a lot of them around here. But I made the mistake of putting them over a basket of oranges and I had a couple rotten oranges the next day. The good thing about over ripe bananas is that they can be frozen, right in the skin and are perfect for smoothies -- just like you said.

  2. I've enjoyed visiting here, this afternoon, Billy. I've clicked through your archives and will be back to read more. Your writing style is very much like your dad's; fun reads.

    My posts tend to be photo heavy. About three years ago, we had a garage sale. I bought a beginner BIG camera, with my share of the proceeds. The photography has sort of taken on a life of it's own. I changed the old Back Porch Musings around, this year. Not as much decor and design, just enough to be fun. I do a lot of day trip posts. I did a little 50's flashback post and included a photo of your mother, Billie and me, when we were very young. That photo is from the 40's.

    I began my 4th your in the blogosphere, in March.

    re: This post...Bananas never stay around here long enough to make smoothies. As soon as they are slightly brown, Jim bags them up and takes them to Terrie's. She makes the best banana bread ever.