Whether you want to add a banana to your cereal, use it for banana bread, or you just want to snack on one on its own, you need it to be ripe. Green, unripe bananas are hard, crunchy, and flavorless, and can ruin the experience of eating these delicious tropical fruits. Of course, sometimes, you’re stuck buying a bunch of green bananas because they’re the only ones available at the supermarket at the time. Then begins the process of waiting for them to ripen on the kitchen counter. What if you could bypass that painstaking experience and drastically reduce the time it takes for those ‘nanners to become soft, sweet, and yellow? Here are a few ways you can ripen bananas faster so you can enjoy them sooner.
First, a Brief Science Lesson
This will be painless, we promise. Understanding the chemistry behind the fruit will help you in your quest to get just the right ripeness for your treasured bananas. There’s a gaseous plant hormone called ethylene in bananas that the fruit synthesizes, which processes the sugars and gets the banana to that beautifully ripe state that you know and love. Even after bananas are picked off the tree, they will continue to give off ethylene to continue the ripening process.
Many banana plantations harvest bananas while they’re still green and then artificially gas them with ethylene to quickly ripen them. You can do something similar (albeit much simpler) with the green bananas you have at home. Here are a few different ways that you can boost the ripeness of your bananas at home.
1. Place Them in a Warm Setting
It will take longer for the bananas to ripen if you keep them in a cool place, especially during the summer months when you may have the A/C blasting. Try to keep the bananas near a heating unit, an oven or toaster, or on top of the fridge. Heat will play a major role in speeding up the ripening. In fact, the ideal temperature for bananas to ripen in is about 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature reaches 53 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the fruit is at risk of getting injured or bruised.
Humidity also plays a role in the ripening process of bananas. Low humidity levels can slow down the ripening and even result in bland-tasting bananas. If your environment is not very humid, you may want to consider placing a bowl of water next to the bananas as you keep them near a warm place. Likewise, a humidifier will also work. Just don’t place the bananas in a moist or damp place, as this will encourage mold growth.
2. Put Them in a Paper Bag
This is a method that you can try out any time of the year. Grab a brown paper bag, similar to the kind that you would use to pack a lunch. You can try this with a bunch or with a single banana. Place the fruit in a brown paper bag and roll up the top of the bag to loosely close it. If you have a ripe apple or tomato hanging around, throw that in with the bananas to speed up the ripening even more.
What will happen is the banana’s ethylene gas will circulate throughout the enclosed space of the bag, enhancing the ripening. Apples and tomatoes that are ripe will also emit ethylene, so it can speed up the process even more.
3. Use the Oven
You can ripen a banana in less than an hour by using your oven. This works best for when you want very ripe or overly ripe bananas for baking; perfect for banana bread or pancakes! Start by preheating your oven to somewhere between 170 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the temperature, the darker (or blacker) the bananas will get. Then, keep the peels on the bananas and place each separate one on a baking sheet. Keep about half an inch between the bananas to allow the heat to move around them. Next, bake the bananas and check on them every five minutes or so once they’ve been in the oven for 15 minutes. You can poke them with a fork to see how soft they are.
Once they’re at the right softness, you can take them out of the oven and allow them to cool. When they are cool enough to touch, you can cut off one end of the peel and squeeze the fruit out, or you can slice down the length of the banana and spoon the soft flesh out.
4. Put Them in the Microwave
Modern technology is great, isn’t it? You can actually put your bananas in the microwave to get them ripe in seconds. You will have to keep an eye on them to make sure that you get just the right level of ripeness you’re looking for. Start by poking the banana peel with a fork or knife. There should be holes all over the length of the banana on all sides.
Then, put the fruit in the microwave and heat it for 30 seconds. Check on the softness of the banana by using a fork. If it’s not soft enough, microwave it again for another 30 seconds, and keep repeating this process until you’ve achieved optimal softness. This method works best when working with one single banana.
Storing Your Bananas
If you’ve got green, unripe bananas that you’re not in a hurry to eat, then you can leave them out on the countertop where they’ll sit at room temperature. It will take a couple of days for them to ripen to that mature yellow color.
For any ripened bananas that you don’t want to eat immediately, you can also keep them on the countertop. Eat them within a day or two to get the supreme flavor and texture. For overripe bananas, you can store them in the fridge for a day or two. The cold air will inhibit further ripening, so they should be fine as long as you don’t leave them there too long. You could also freeze the bananas (make sure you peel them first) so you can use them in smoothies later on.