If you have ever bought organic bananas, you might have noticed that they don’t seem to go bad as fast as regular bananas. That may seem a bit odd to you. After all, the foods that last best are usually the ones with unnatural preservatives and chemicals in them. Why would organic bananas, specifically free from these things, last so long?
You might buy some organic and some non-organic and test the theory out – and you’re likely to see that it is true.
Do organic bananas last longer? Yes, organic bananas do usually last longer than non-organic ones. There are a few potential reasons that organic bananas often last longer. Firstly, they are often picked much greener than non-organic bananas, as store owners expect them to sell less quickly. Secondly, non-organic bananas may be treated with artificial ethylene gas, while organic ones aren’t.
Why Do They Pick Organic Bananas Greener?
Unless they are going to be eaten in the same country they are being picked in, bananas are usually picked when they are still fairly green. The reason for this is that they won’t ripen too quickly. For organic bananas, which are expected to sell more slowly, picking them greener helps to prevent product waste.
By picking bananas when they are green, stores ensure that they don’t ripen before they hit the shelves. They are then stored at cool temperatures until they are ready to go on display. This helps to slow the ripening process further, meaning bananas can be transported around the whole world.
With organic bananas, stores often want to further extend the time between picking and ripening so they don’t end up with overripe organic bananas on their shelves. You can’t decrease the storage temperature too much, or the banana will never ripen. Usually, bananas are stored between 56.3°F and 59° F. If they are stored below 39° F, they won’t ripen at all.
That means that the ripening process can only be slowed so much – and if the manufacturers want to extend the life of bananas, they need to pick them greener, rather than storing them colder. Picking organic bananas greener increases the amount of shelf life they have in the store, and reduces the overall waste.
Why Don’t They Use Ethylene Gas on Organic Bananas?
Ethylene gas is a gas that makes fruits ripen, and non-organic bananas are often sprayed with an artificial version of this, but organic bananas can’t be sprayed and retain their organic status – so they aren’t sprayed.
Fruits produce ethylene gas naturally themselves, but if you expose fruits to it, they ripen faster. Once this ripening has been triggered, it will continue even if the source of ethylene is removed, although it may be slower.
By spraying the non-organic bananas with ethylene before they put them on the shelves, the stores can take them from unripe to ripe very quickly. That means that, combined with slowing the ripening process through cold storage, they have a good amount of control over when non-organic bananas are ripe.
However, they can’t do this with organic bananas. They can cold store them, because this is a natural process, so they can slow down the ripening. They cannot spray them, so they can’t speed up the ripening.
That means that organic bananas on the shelves in stores have usually just been taken out of cold storage. They aren’t as ripe because they haven’t been sprayed, so until they have had time to ripen up naturally, they are greener.
They will also continue to ripen more slowly as a result of not being exposed to a lot of ethylene – and that continues even after you have bought them and taken them home. Non-organic bananas that have been treated with ethylene will keep ripening fast, and will go past their best quickly. Organic bananas, ripening at a more natural pace, usually last much better.
How Can You Make Your Organic Bananas Ripen Faster?
If you want your organic bananas to ripen more quickly (or even your non-organic ones) then the simplest thing to do is to expose them to ethylene gas. There are plenty of natural sources of this in the home.
Putting your bananas near apples should increase the ripening process, as apples give off plenty of ethylene gas. Avocados and melons also produce a lot. Bananas themselves produce quite a lot of ethylene as they ripen, so they should trigger the process themselves after a few days.
Leaving your bananas unwrapped in the fruit bowl on the counter should help them to ripen quickly, especially if you have any of the above fruit in the bowl too.
How Can You Slow Down the Ripening Process of Organic Bananas?
Keep your bananas cool and away from the ethylene-producing fruits. Wrap your bananas up, particularly the stems, to reduce the amount of ethylene gas that they are exposed to, and consider wrapping other fruits as well.
This should prevent the flow of ethylene gas between all of the fruits, and slow down the ripening process for everything.
Keeping the fruit cool and away from direct sunlight will also help. Avoid putting your bananas in the refrigerator, however; this turns the skins black fast, and can make the bananas unappetizing. Temperatures below 39° F will start to break down the banana’s cell walls and may make the fruit gray.
If you chill your bananas too much, they will never resume the ripening process, and will rot instead. It is better to store your bananas in a cool, shady place, but not to let them get too chilled.
Acting promptly is a good idea; the further along the ripening process the bananas are, the more ethylene gas they will be giving off, and the faster they will ripen. If you know you want your bananas to last, buy slightly green ones, and keep them in their bag to minimize the airflow around them.
Organic bananas do often last longer because they have been picked and stored to increase their lifespan, and they are not artificially ripened before being put out on the shelves. If you want your bananas to last well, organic are the best option; non-organic bananas will often only last a few days before they turn brown because they have been gassed before purchase.