Thursday, December 1, 2011

Go ahead, put your bananas in the refrigerator

The United Fruit Company, may have overthrown Latin American governments, hired Columbian death squads and exacerbated economic and social divisions throughout the Americas. But, damn, could its adwriters write a good jingle.

Even the youngest among us have heard the Chiquita Banana song:

For those who missed it, here are the lyrics:

I'm Chiquita banana and I've come to say
Bananas have to ripen in a certain way
When they are fleck'd with brown and have a golden hue
Bananas taste the best and are best for you
You can put them in a salad
You can put them in a pie-aye
Any way you want to eat them
It's impossible to beat them
But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator
So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator

Don’t refrigerate the banana? Why not? What are the consequences?

I’m not the first to ask this question, nor will I be the last. Opinions suggest that refrigeration is fine, but ripening is slowed. But I needed to find out for myself.

Only one way to sort this out — experiment time!

Our experimental bunch of bananas. Click on photos to embiggen.

Day 1:
Step 1 — Got a pledge from my wife that she would make banana bread out of any rotten bananas.
Step 2 — Bought a small bunch of four barely-ripened bananas (above) from Safeway.
Step 3 — Lettered them from A to D, then left them to ripen in the four most-common fruit storage methods that I could think of:

• Banana A (the control) was simply put in my fruit basket with the other fruit;

• Banana B was put into the refrigerator to test the assessment in the song;

• Banana C was put on top of the refrigerator because that’s where my mom thought fruit best ripened;

• Banana D was kept in a paper bag, based on folk wisdom that keeping fruit in paper bags helps it ripen faster.

I then let nature take its course. The first few days, all the bananas looked the same, with the first brown splotches showing up on all four on day 3.

Sadly, tragedy struck on Day 6 when Banana C (on the top of the refrigerator) was eaten prematurely by an absent-minded housemate. The best I can say was that it looked little different on Day 5 from any of the other bananas.

Day 7: After one week, I compare my three remaining bananas (right).

Banana A is a bright yellow, with several round brown spots. Would still pick up and eat based on physical appearance.

Banana B is greener than its counterparts. Browning is more diffuse than other bananas (in blotches more than spots). Would eat this one last based on physical appearance.

Banana C: Missing.

Banana D: What do you know? It appears the paper bag method works. Appears to have gotten more ripe than other bananas. Even spotting. Would eat based on physical appearance.

Day 14: After two weeks, the experiment was over. I put all three bananas (below) on the counter, examined their appearance and resolved to take a couple bites from each.

Banana A: The best looking of the bunch and the only one I would pick to eat based on how it looks. Still fairly yellow, with high-contrast spots. After peeling, severe mushy spots apparent on top end. Bottom is still edible and appetizing, but upper half is a waste.

Banana B: This banana has a fairly even brown skin at this point. Based on appearance alone, would not choose to eat. But upon peeling, I am very surprised. The actual fruit is still firm and good-looking. Without a peel, this banana still looks fresh! Tastes good. Actually finish.

Banana C: Missing.

Banana D: Almost completely covered with splotches. Not very appetizing in appearance. Peeled skin. Interior was almost completely brown and mushy. Did not eat.

So the moral? If you need your bananas to ripen quickly, try a paper bag but don’t leave them in too long. If you want your bananas to last, refrigerate them, Chiquita Banana Song be damned. Just don't expect them to look good.

* Footnote: My wife notes that this was a bad experiment, as the third banana went missing. “It’s like Jonas Salk was about to cure polio and someone ate the moldy bread,” she said.

1 comment:

Sam Hozman said...

This experiment conclusively proved to me that you shouldn't put bananas on the top of your fridge if you don't want them to mysteriously disappear and stay disappeared.