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Produce 101: Banana Guide

Produce 101: Banana Guide

Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world, and believe it or not, are actually a berry.  Bananas are grown in over 150 countries, but actually don’t grow on trees.  Fun fact: botanically, bananas are herbaceous plants, not trees. Trees have bark, these don’t.

Most common variety consumed today

The Cavendish is the most commonly exported and consumed banana, over taking the Gros Michel variety in the 1950’s, which succumbed to the dreaded Panama Disease.

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The Cavendish is the most commonly exported and consumed banana.

How they ship is important

Bananas are typically shipped from the country of origin as an unripe, solid green fruit.  This is simply so they will survive the long and arduous trek to America.

Where the magic happens

Once the fruit is received at the supplier’s facility, they undergo an initial ripening treatment by being exposed to ethylene. This triggers the ripening in the banana and the length of time varies based on a few factors, the most important being the ambient temperature.

Once the fruit has undergone this step, they need to be stored away from ethylene producing fruits and in a fairly warm environment, 55 – 58°F.

 

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These fruits release a lot of ethylene gas.

 

What not to do

You don’t ever want to refrigerate bananas, they are extremely susceptible to chill damage, dull color, brown streaks on the skin, soft flesh and an inability to fully ripen. Avoid dropping a case of bananas, as bruising will become an issue.

If you refrigerate bananas, it doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them ugly. While not bad, it is certainly not what you want to use for hand fruit—which is the banana’s primary function.

Ordering the right banana

There is no USDA grade on bananas, and they are all sold by color. So, what should you look for? You want to look for bananas that meet your color specification. You also want to look for the right size and uniformity and to be free of defects.

If bananas don’t have a grade, how do you order them?

Luckily the industry has come up with a great solution. We sell them by color. Bananas are classified by the color stage with a numeric system. Most people want a banana that is ready to eat, or ready to eat in a relatively short period of time, so a stage 5 color is often the perfect choice.  If you need to order greener fruit, simply leave them at 55-58°F until the desired color is reached.

 

Produce 101: Banana Guide Color Chart

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What are the more common defects?

Bruising can happen when the cases are mishandled. Dull skin color would be an indicator of chill damage or temperature abuse. Soft mushy bananas with a dark color indicate over ripeness or heat damage (again, temperature abuse).

 

Dan discusses bananas


 

Content provided by Chef Daniel Snowden, the Director of Culinary Development for FreshPoint Central Florida. He has been in the produce industry years almost 20 years, and loves getting geeky about food. Follow FreshPoint Central Florida on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Additional contributions by Lisa Pettineo.

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