Most of us eat bananas as a sweet and filling snack. But this nutritious fruit can also add sweet creaminess to many cooked dishes.
Here are some hints on how to choose the best bananas, as well as how to cook with this delightful fruit.
- Choose bananas according to how—and when—you’ll eat them. If you prefer fully ripe, brown-flecked bananas, and the store carries only greenish ones, you’ll need to shop several days in advance of the time you plan to eat the fruit. If you prefer bananas just yellow, a day or two will suffice to ripen greenish ones. Don’t buy any that have a dull, grayish cast—these may have been stored at very cold temperatures, and will not ripen properly.
- The taste and texture of a banana is directly related to its stage of ripeness. The carbohydrates in green bananas are primarily starches that convert to sugar as the fruits ripen and turn yellow. Very green bananas are hard and have an astringent taste, whereas fully ripened yellow bananas are soft, sweet, and creamy. Bananas that are yellow and lightly flecked with brown spots will be at their peak flavor, but many people prefer the texture and less-sweet taste of bananas with green tips and no freckling.
- Bananas should be plump, firm, and brightly colored. Look for unblemished fruit. Occasional brown spots on the skin are normal, but sunken, moist-looking dark areas will likely show up as bruises on the fruit.
- Bananas should have their stem ends and skins intact: A split skin or stem may become an entry point for contamination. There’s no quality difference between small and large fruit. Bananas bruise easily, so handle them with care.
How to store bananas at home
Bananas that require further ripening should be left at room temperature, but away from heat or direct sun. To speed ripening, place them in a plastic or paper bag. You can also put an apple in the bag with the bananas to hasten the process (the apple, however, will over ripen to a mealy mush).
Once ripened to your liking, bananas can be held at room temperature for about a day or two. Then, you can store them in the refrigerator to slow down ripening. Although the skins of refrigerated bananas will turn dark, the fruits will remain perfectly edible.
You can keep refrigerated bananas for up to two weeks. You should never refrigerate unripe bananas, however. The exposure to cold interrupts their ripening cycle, and it will not resume even if the fruits are returned to room temperature.
How to freeze bananas
You can salvage an overabundance of overripe bananas by peeling them, wrapping them whole or in chunks in plastic wrap, and freezing them. Eat them frozen (a sweet treat in summer) or thaw them and use in baking. If you are going to use the bananas only for baking, you can just freeze them in their skins.
How to cook with bananas
When peeling and slicing bananas that you won’t be serving immediately, dip them into lemon, lime, or orange juice to slow browning.
Try these six creative ways to add bananas to your meals:
1. Add bananas to stews, soups, and pasta sauces. They add a slight sweetness and help thicken the sauce.
2. Make a banana salsa for poultry, meat, or fish: Dice bananas and combine with onion, red bell peppers, honey, and lime juice.
3. Bake bananas in their skin, then peel and toss in a brown sugar–lime sauce.
4. Make a grilled sandwich with sliced banana and peanut butter.
5. Stir mashed bananas with sautéed onion, curry spices, and yogurt to make a sweet-savory accompaniment for Indian food.
6. Blend a banana with milk and almond or peanut butter for a tasty smoothie.