A trip to any grocery store's produce section will quickly reveal that bananas are often picked from the tree well before their prime—which is necessary for them to arrive at our local store without going bad. In fact, bananas are refrigerated en route to our supermarkets in order to stave off the ripening process... which makes sense, since they travel quite the distance (from the Tropics around South America or Africa to our proverbial doorstep).
So, by the time you're checking produce items off your list and reach for a banana, chances are that the banana is either completely green or has a greenish tinge toward the stem. And although some folks enjoy a green banana once in a while, I am definitely not one of them. I prefer my banana bright yellow, without a hint of green or a smudge of dark brown, thank you, and I am willing to wait until the darn things ripen to my liking.
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However, not everyone has the luxury of time; sometimes, you need a ripened banana right away or within a day or two for a recipe or a craving. If you're in this boat, then we've got great tips to keep you from going bananas. (Sorry... I couldn't help myself.)
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This is my go-to method when I want bananas ripened within a day. Simply place the amount of bananas you'd like ripened in a brown paper bag and roll the bag shut. Doing so traps the ethylene gas that is naturally emitted by bananas (and other fruits such as apples) that encourages ripening; by trapping the gas, you quicken the process.
And, speaking of apples, you can make the process go even faster by throwing an apple in the bag with your bananas as well!
More often than not, baking with bananas requires the bananas to be almost overly-sweet and mushy... which is what makes banana bread such a smart way of using over-ripe bananas. Thankfully, you don't have to wait the few days or so to get your bananas super ripe if your oven is otherwise unoccupied.
Set your oven temperature to 300°F, then place your unpeeled bananas on a lined baking sheet and bake them for 15-30 minutes. Make sure you don't wander too far—oven times may vary, the bananas can leak, and are done as soon as the peel is shiny and black.
Once they are allowed to cool for a bit, just peel the bananas and use them in the recipe or smoothie you desire.
Ah, the microwave—a fantastic way to cook things quickly for impatient people like me. And the microwave again comes through for us when it comes to yet another kitchen hack: ripening bananas.
Poke your banana peel on all sides with a fork, then place on a paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds at a time. Check the consistency each time for doneness; depending on how green your banana was at the start, it may take up to 2 minutes for the banana to soften. Allow the banana to cool, then use it in any recipe you wish.
I should note that the microwave softens the banana in such a short period of time that the natural sugars of the banana aren't able to develop and sweeten the fruit—so although the consistency will be soft, the flavor will still taste unripe. So, I would recommend only using the microwave if the banana is more yellow than green.
(Okay... I know the lyrics are technically "we have no bananas," but if you're reading this, chances are that you have some lying around.)
While these tricks are all great ways to get bananas riper in a short amount of time, only the paper bag method will ripen your bananas in a way that allows them to be consumed raw; the other tips are great for recipes that involve baking bananas as an ingredient (bread, muffins, etc.) or blending in smoothies, but make them far too mushy to be eaten as-is.
Good things come to those who wait—unless you know how to ripen bananas, that is... in which case, good things comes to those who are well-informed!
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