Monday 12 February 2018

Bananas - You Will Never Throw Them Away Again

   Bananas. I've learned to love them. But what I can't get behind is their shelf life - ie, they don't have one. I would buy ready-to-eat bananas on the Monday and, by Thursday, they'd be brown, bruised and generally unpleasant. And because I'm against food waste and eating needlessly, I would just suck it up and eat them as they are rather than throw them out or make banana bread.
   So, when I found a trick to help bananas keep their freshness, I had to try it. And when it worked, I had to share it - which I did in my recipe post for banana, maca and blueberry pancakes. But I'm mentioning it again, and in greater detail, because bananas are one of the most wasted foods in the country, all because of that shelf life.

   First of all, why do bananas go bad so quickly? Well, it's the same reason that fruits kept in close contact (ie the same bowl) as bananas ripen faster, and it's simple science. When picked, banana stems are broken. This contrasts to other fruits whose stems aren't truly part of the fruit. But, in the banana's case, the stem is part of the banana skin. When harvested, the stem is broken, and this exposure of the inside of the stem and skin to the air encourages the production and release of ethene (formerly ethylene) gas. This gas is a hormone that acts upon the fruit and encourages ripening by breaking down cell walls, converting starches to sugars and removing acids. This gas isn't limited to touching only the banana but the other fruits around it, which means they ripen with the banana.
   So, the simplest way to prevent this is to cover the broken stem and stop the gas from escaping. And chilling the bananas - like all fruit and veg - also slows the maturity. The combination of the two is almost fruit sorcery.

   There are two ways to wrap the top: clingfilm, or plastic or NatureFlex and elastic bands, both of which can be reused if done carefully - the clingfilm, when wrapped neatly, can be used again on the next bunch of bananas, and the plastic and elastic bands even more so.

   The trick is to separate the bananas if you buy a bunch. Break them all apart and wrap the stems individually. It's true it will use more plastic, but, as I said, it can be re-used, and it will be both easier and more effective than trying to wrap the top of the bunch as a whole, and each banana will actually be subjected to even less gas.
   Next, store them in the fridge. I promise they will keep for at least a week. I always do my shopping on a Monday afternoon, but I have bananas after my workout, which means I still need one for the following Monday morning. Which means I rely on this method to keep bananas fresh for 8 days.

Day 1

   Here is a picture of my bananas, purchased Monday afternoon. As you can see, they are not green bananas, they are yellow and ready to eat. I separated them, wrapped the stems, and then put them in the fridge.

Day 8

   Here is a picture of my last banana, which I had on the following Monday morning. It looks gross, right? The skin has gone completely brown, and it's not quite as firm as it was when I bought it. But only a little. And the stalk is still yellow.

   And here is a picture of that last and unpleasant looking banana, peeled. It is perfect. The skin had turned brown, but that was all, and the softness was in fact just from the skin itself, which you do not eat. The banana itself was firm, sweet and unmarked. As were all the others I'd had through the week, and every time I've used this method over the last month.

   Now, if you do have some overripe bananas, I have some suggestions for you, and they aren't banana bread.
   My favourite thing to do with overripe bananas is make banana pancakes - but in this case, they're made with only a banana and an egg. Sounds crazy, but it works. They're not fluffy like usual pancakes - they never could be without flour - they're more like the middle part of French toast. But the reason this is my preferred use is fourfold:
1. You're not adding extra ingredients like flour, butter, sugar and so on. Instead, it's just an egg, which is a whole food.
2. That egg actually enhances the nutrition of the banana, providing both healthy fat and protein, while the banana provides carbs and fibre. That makes the whole thing much more well-rounded and nutritious than just a banana.
3. You don't end up with something that will make multiple servings, making it ideal if you have fussy eaters under your roof or know no one else would be interested in eating it.
4. It's also very easy to improve - add other fruit, spices, powdered superfoods and so on to get even more out of them.

   If this isn't for you, there are other things you can do with overripe bananas that aren't banana bread. The trick is to put the banana into a position where its texture and firmness don't count for anything. Such as:
1. Breakfast muffins - or any baking, really, including any regular pancake recipe. Mash or puree and add to the mix - it's a wonderful replacement for sugar.
2. Banana sauce - puree with some milk and you've got some nutritious banana sauce for your muffins or ice cream.
3. Smoothies - fairly obvious, but they increase the yield of a smoothie without adding an overpowering sweetness or flavour, as bananas are generally quite mild. The banana also counts towards your five a day along with any other fruits, superfood mixes or greens you add.
4. Canvas cake - mash or puree the banana and add it to the mixture once you've added your water and egg white. Top it with plain yogurt and a handful of nuts for a banana nut canvas cake that also counts as one of your five a day.
5. Porridge! Replace your sugar, honey or sweetener and add more volume, and one of your five a day.

   There. As far as I'm concerned, this post officially rules out the need to throw out bananas ever again.


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