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Ripening bananas.
An experiment.

O.K. We’re starting off the week with a little experiment here on The Art of Doing Stuff.

You know when someone mentions something or says a word you’ve never heard before and you feel like an idiot? And then you suddenly notice that word or thing everywhere? Well, that happened to me last week. Sort of.

Twice in as many days, two separate people, randomly, out of the blue, told me that bananas ripen at different speeds depending on whether you leave them in a bunch of separate them.

This was obviously a sign from the fruit Gods. At the very least, the Chiquita banana lady. I needed to find the truth about this. Was it possible? Did bananas really ripen differently depending on whether or not you pulled them apart?

This wasn’t information I could just accept without some kind of proof.

This needed some detective work. So I put on my overcoat, my see-behind-you sunglasses which I got in a magic kit when I was 12 and went straight to the grocery store. I bought a bunch of completely green bananas all the while watching the guy behind me trying to slip a roast into his pants.

I separated two individual bananas from the bunch. So now I had 2 individual bananas and a bunch of bananas. Would one group ripen faster than the other?

Here are the results in technicolour video.

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The results? Bananas in a bunch ripened about twice as fast as the ones that were separated.

The other results? Realizing the only thing harder than herding a bunch of cats is keeping one out of a banana box.


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69 Comments | Filed Under: DIY Home Decor & Design Videos, Experiments, Kitchen | Tags:

69 Responses to Ripening bananas.
An experiment.

  1. Pati Gulat says:

    I had been told that too but didn’t believe it til now. Once again you come thru in the clinch !

  2. I had heard the same thing about the speed of banana ripening so I always separate mine when I bring them home. However it seems no matter what I do, my bananas always ripen faster than I want them to and I have more bananas left than desire to eat them. When that happens I just freeze them for a future foray into banana bread.

    Thanks for your experiment. Much appreciated.

    • Karen says:

      Gitana – You can also buy something called “ungasses” bananas in some grocery stores. When bananas are picked they’re put in a room with ethylene gas to speed up the ripening process. Ungassed bananas haven’t had this process and take much longer to ripen. Plus they seem to taste more bananaey. But that could just be me. ~ karen!

  3. I’ve never heard of ungassed bananas. I’ll have to look for them. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Corinne says:

    I have been separating my bananas for years(learned this from my Mom). To make them even last longer, put separated bananas in a bag so they are covered and then store in a dark place. I put mine in my pantry cupboard. If they start out completely green, they can last for well over a week. I have also found that the organic bananas last longer.

    • Karen says:

      Corinne – It’s possible that the organic bananas are ungassed. That’s weird about putting them in a bag. I would have thought they’d ripen faster in a bag because it would concentrate all the ethylene they produce. Are you just trying to get me to do another experiment, LOL? ~ karen!

      • Corinne says:

        Could possibly be another experiment. I have just always put them in a bag(cause my Mom told me to). Truthfully, I have never tried it without the bag, but will certainly be giving it a try. I think keeping them in a dark place also helps. I’ll let you know what happens.

      • Ruth says:

        Just noticed this…. they do ripe faster, Karen.

  5. katy oneill says:

    I was taught to keep bananas separated from other fruit as well, because the ethylene they produce makes other fruit ripen faster.

  6. JBB says:

    I’ve also heard that if you wrap the stem end of the bananas in aluminum foil you will slow the ripening process.

    More experiments for you to do because we’re too lazy! :)

    • Chau says:

      I’ve heard the same thing. Karen, would you please do this experiment?

    • Heather says:

      I’ve done this–you can wrap it in almost anything actually, but foil and plastic wrap seem easiest. I actually had to UNwrap them so they would ripen a bit because after a week and a half we still had SUPERGREEN bananas.

  7. Diana says:

    Karen…
    the only thing I know about bananas:
    never store them together with apples!
    because the ripening of the apples let the bananas wrack much faster.

    so I have got another experiment
    my mom always told me,never stick tomatoes and cucumber together! what do you think of this advice?

  8. RosieW says:

    I love bananas, but really picky about the ‘perfect to me’ amount of ripeness. Friend taught me years ago to refrigerate them. The skins turn a nasty brown but they don’t continue ripening when chilled. Trust me on this, at least long enough to test it.

    Y’all are going to love me for this!

    Rosie

  9. Mary Kay says:

    THEY GAS OUR BANANAS????? WTH is up with THAT?? I have never heard of gassed or ungassed bananas!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. They do. But they only gas them with the natural gas that they produce anyway so it isn’t too big of a deal. :) ~ karen

  10. marilyn says:

    you wouldnt believe how many people put roasts down their pants..and in their coats and shirts etc etc etc..boggles the mind!

  11. Mary Werner says:

    Before I finished reading I was excited about why my single bananas always turned brown immediately and went bad so quick (last on the bunch) UNTIL I read your outcome. Now I have to do an experiment to find out if you leave it in a bunch, does the single one ripen much quicker on the last day without his friends? Could be they are social creatures and get depressed turning brown instead of blue.

  12. Jim Barry says:

    Recently we started keeping the bunch-o-bananas in the corner cupboard of the kitchen. Figured it was a nice dark, cool spot. seems to have slowed down the ripening process.

    But, learned something else. Don’t put bananas and the dish of butter/margarine in the same space unless you like the flavor of banana butter. :/

  13. Ruth says:

    They will ripen even faster if you wrap them in paper and place them in a cupboard. Just don’t forget they’re in there. ;)

    I’m curious. The bananas you get so far up north…where are they grown?

  14. Ruth says:

    Just watched the video… what’s the story behind the cat with the bananas?

    (Not sure why I think there’s a story, considering I’m still awaiting the back story for the stair photograph.)

    • Karen says:

      My setup for taking the time lapse pictures is in the basement. A white box, tripod with camera, light, etc. The camera automatically takes pictures every 7 minutes of the bananas. At some point my cat thought the warm box filled with bananas seemed like a great place to hang out. I went downstairs to find her smashed inside the light box with the bananas while the camera was taking pictures. ` karen!

  15. Mary says:

    We buy our bananas at Aldi’s- a no-frill store here. They have them still in the sealed bags. The bananas last a full week if you close up the bag after taking one. Now I know why the grocery stores take them out of the bag, it’s so they look prettier, but they stay much longer in the plastic bag.

  16. Tisha says:

    I have never heard this before, thanks for the tip! My son will not touch a banana if it has more than two brown spots on it, so I end up using the super ripe ones in my morning smoothie. We rarely throw any out, but it’s nice to know this will slow down the ripening process. Thanks Karen!

  17. Jamie says:

    How interesting that the tip of the single banana that was touching the bunch ripened quickly, while the rest of the banana didn’t…

  18. Feral Turtle says:

    I actually got an email a month ago about this. I tried my own experiment and came to the same conclusion! Great post Karen!

  19. Debbie says:

    Great music … made the video epic.

  20. Karen says:

    You have again answered one of the world’s most intriguing mysteries. Amazing detective work. :)

  21. Barbie says:

    I will now ALWAYS separate my bananas! They always ripen to fast for us!

  22. Susan says:

    Yes! I look forward to your cat proofing video!! You’re the best. :)

  23. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Well now..ain’t that sumthin..do we know why this happens?? Why does the bunch ripen faster..why does the singles ripen slower..why does a cat shove it’s butt into any available box no matter how small it may be..

    • Kim says:

      My guess is that if they are in closer proximity to each other, they are exposed to more of the ethylene gas they are giving off. Kind of along the lines of another commenter stating you should store your bananas with other fruit, as it will ripen faster too. It would be interesting to do an experiment where you compare the rate of ripening of singles still touching each other and singles spaced further apart!

  24. Laura Bee says:

    This is interesting, but I really like my RIPE bananas & then they hit that point where they make me wanna bake. Great video, the only reason they make plastic cat carriers is because they chew through cardboard. We had a gym bag for our first cat. Just opened it up on the floor & waited five minutes. Zip & off to the vet.

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      Brilliant!!! I must try that, there’s nothing worse than trying to shove a cat into a carrier.

      • CCD says:

        Getting a cat inside a carrier is easier if you tilt the carrier up on end with the open door on top. Then drop the cat inside and close the door.

  25. Jasmine says:

    Well that was freakin amazing! I don’t eat a lot of bananas but other people in this house do and won’t touch a ripe one. This could actually save me money! Great music btw…

  26. nancy says:

    I like my bananas so ripe most people are afraid of them.

    Did you know if you freeze good n ripe bananas and blend them up they taste like vanilla ice cream? While doing this I learned my Vitamix blender will just quit instead going on and burning the motor up.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve learned that too! Don’t tell the fella. Technically the blender is his and he doesn’t like me to touch it. ~ karen

  27. Allison says:

    you need to have the same number of separated bananas piled up.

    • Karen says:

      I have. I’ve done it every way possible. Separated bananas always ripen more slowly. Always, always. ~ karen

  28. Tricia Rose says:

    There’s always something to think about, isn’t there. It all beats me.

  29. Brenda says:

    They last longer if the ones you separate are not touching each other. If you want to make them last even longer, separate them, wrap each one in newspaper and put them in the fridge.

  30. Kim Steinmetz says:

    Thanks for doing this experiment for me–I have been separating my bananas for some time now, having read the tip online somewhere. Shortly after I read it, I heard someone saying the exact OPPOSITE thing on the radio. So, every week as I faithfully pull my bananas apart, I always wonder. Now your next experiment can be why people wonder and DON’T do their own research. :)
    Speaking of experiments–you need to read this book it is FANTASTIC: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. You will absolutely love it.

  31. Theresa says:

    Oooooh, good to know. I’ve never separated my bananas and they get ripe way too quickly. Now I’m going to start and I’ll have nice yummy bananas all week long!

  32. Debbie B says:

    Had no idea

  33. Irma de Visser says:

    Last week I learned the best way (the only way, actually) to peal a banana. For 34 years I had no idea. I love these little lucky moments that can make your day!

  34. Jen says:

    Bought some bananas today and quickly separated them.

    I can’t tell if they’re gassy or not. They may just be really polite. :)

  35. Jim says:

    It could also be that larger bananas ripen faster…

  36. Lisa says:

    Ha! I was doing it backwards the whole time. No wonder they were’t ripening fast enough. That and my house is about 60 degrees in the winter, which slows them down a bit. So thank you for straightening me out.

  37. jim says:

    Thanks, I am guessing it is because, when separated, they can be a few degrees cooler, as more air can get to them, and that is slowing down the ripening. I can’t think of anything else that would….Jim

  38. rebecca says:

    Proposal for your next kitchen experiment (thanks for the tip about bananas, BTW…very helpful): Does storing onions near potatoes cause the potatoes to rot, or store less well? My mother always claimed that the gasses let off by the onions do other root-cellar produce harm. Where do you keep your onions?

  39. Linda S says:

    Well, this is a fine piece of news. Now what are we supposed to do with those cute little banana hanger thingies that decorate my countertop?? I’ve always hated it when I get down to a single banana because it won’t hang by it’s pretty little neck like its supposed to.

  40. Carolyn says:

    I’m looking forward to following your blog.

  41. Jose says:

    Compliments on a very nice blog … and some very good observations about banana ripening.

    Some of you are very close in homing in on one important factor, heat. Very good comments on gassing which is as natural and organic as it comes, but once bananas are exposed to ethylene gas, they take over by themselves.

    Once they are triggered by the ethylene, they start producing heat. Whether the heat occurs in a commercial ripening facility or on your counter does not matter. More heat, more ripening.

    So, if you control the heat, you control the ripening.

    Commercially, bananas are harvested and immediately washed to remove “field heat” then packed and loaded aboard ships either on pallets or containerized like Chiquita does. In either case, they are refrigerated with a target temp of 58 degrees or so. Colder and they will chill, hotter and they may randomly start to produce some stray ethylene on their own which will lead to disaster. Bananas need to arrive in port green. Chiquita does begin the ripening on some containers by introducing gas during transit. Otherwise, the commercial banana ripener will initiate the gassing himself after stabilizing the temperatures.

    Much of today’s ripeners work with “load” quantities which 20 pallets of 48 boxes each totaling 960 boxes. The goal is to ripen all of the bananas to the same stage of color for acceptable delivery to the supermarkets.

    The ripener carefully monitors the pulp temperatures of the bananas with a probe while introducing the gas at about 61 degrees. Once the bananas start to ripen their heat MUST be controlled by venting/cooling the fruit. Kind of tricky since it is a game of anticipating the amount of ripening. Normally, five to six days and the bananas are ready for delivery. If the ripener needs to hurry production, he will allow the bananas to heat up more, sometimes 63 or 64 degrees. The result is ripening that even after the fruit is cooled will continue to ripen quickly in the store … and on your counter.

    If you consistently get bananas that ripen too fast at home even though you are careful with them, suspect that your supermarket distribution center or supplier is rushing his ripening.

    So, bananas bunched together will ripen faster because of the concentrated heat. Ask you produce guy what the first thing he’s supposed to do when he gets his banana delivery which is sometimes daily. He should tell you he “pops the tops off the boxes” and ventilates them (unless in a really colder area of the country which is a separate chill problem).

    Obviously much more to banana ripening than this probably too long comment about an excellent fruit, usually the number revenue item in the supermarkets produce section.

    Thanks for listening.

    • Tina says:

      Jose, that was fascinating information! Thank you for sharing. That answers a lot of questions I have often had about bananas.

  42. George says:

    I am always wanting to know the “why” of things. I understand the seperating the bunch and keeping away from apples. But why does wrapping the stem keep them from ripening!? My google skills are failing me

  43. brian says:

    I am a truck driver I am asked when I load bananas in the truck when was the last time I hauld applesm. I am NOT allowed to haul apples 1 week before I haul the bananas..Post said the gases from the apples or right on the bananas they are correct I have seen truckloads of bananas rejected at the loading dock because they did not arrived freshalso most or change have special rooms at their regional distribution centers just for storing bananas and nothing else

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