Bananas are not a delicacy exclusive to our primate cousins. We, as a global civilization, have been consuming bananas for centuries and now have large-scale import and export activities involving these widespread and beloved fruits. However, people like ripe bananas, so special ripening chambers exist where imported bananas are immediately kept, so that they reach the market in a ripe and delicious form.
When we talk about local produce though, a lot of banana stock is still raw when sold to consumers, and in the case of the large Cavendish banana, being raw means being green in color.
We only eat bananas when they turn yellow, and this color change is an important indicator of ripeness. The question is, what causes this color change when bananas ripen?
Time for a Change
Let’s first tackle the changes taking place in the banana peel itself. Initially, the peel is green in color, which is due to the chlorophyll content of the peel. Why does a fruit require chlorophyll? Good question. It’s essentially an efficient way of supplying nutrients (mainly starch) to the fruit inside. When all that starch has been stored in the fruit, it is firm and in an optimal condition for eating. At that point, however, it’s time for the hard interior to soften up for consumption.
The chlorophyll in the peel breaks down and the starch within the fruit is converted into simple sugars. As a result, the peel turns yellow and the fruit softens up and becomes sweet. This change leaves the peel much softer and thinner than it was initially, making it much easier to “peel” back from the delicious fruit.
So wait for your bunch of Cavendish bananas to turn yellow, but don’t wait too long after that to peel and enjoy, or else the fruit will turn too squishy – and no one wants that!