Bananas are a tricky little fruit. If you don't know how to ripen bananas, you're in for a mushy, brown spotted mess. It's difficult, because their ripeness window can be hard to pin down. Sometimes they will be greenish-yellow for days, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, they are covered in brown spots and hardly edible at all. Well, think of me like a banana fairy godmother, sent here to solve all of your banana problems from teaching you how to ripen bananas to figuring out how to keep bananas fresher longer.
As someone who has recently gotten into bananas, I am blown away at how bad I am at taking care of them. For days they will sit on my counter in their green-yellow skin and I will impatiently whine for them to ripen. Then one morning, BAM they will be covered in brown spots, as mushy as pudding. I seem to be good at neither keeping them fresh nor ripening them early. The banana whisperer I am not… until now. I think I cracked the banana code, and I’m ready to share my knowledge with you.
Before we jump into it, we need to understand how bananas actually work. Bananas are full of a plant hormone called ethylene. This chemical compound changes the fruit's texture (as well as its composition), allowing it to ripen. If you need fruit to ripen faster, all you basically need is more ethylene gas around your fruit. It may sound like one of those complicated science projects you thought you left behind in grade school, but I promise it's much easier than you think.
Don't separate your bananas
Think of bananas like people. They like to be near friends. Bananas in a bunch ripen faster than individual ones, since there is more ethylene in the area. This method takes about 24 to 48 hours to hit perfect ripeness.
P.S. If you place the bananas in a warm spot in your kitchen they'll ripen even faster. Just don't leave them on the fridge too long or you'll miss your window.
Brown bag it
Who said brown bag lunches are just for kids? You've probably heard of this method before, but it's one worth mentioning again. Even the famous Chiquita Bananas company recommends it: If you place your bananas in a brown paper bag, they should ripen even faster. This is because the ethylene will accumulate in the bag, and turn your bananas ripe. Hooray!
Heat 'em up
If you really can't wait 24 hours to let them ripen there are even faster methods. After poking holes in the banana's skin with a fork, you can microwave an unripe banana for about 30 seconds. I recommend you check on its softness, and keep microwaving in 30-second increments until the desired ripeness has been met. This method tends to be best if you intend to use the bananas for baking purposes since the bananas will get pretty mushy.
You can also bake these yellow darlings in the oven, as seen here:
Now, if you find that your bananas ripen too quickly, there are a few tricks to keep them fresher longer. For starters, do the exact opposite of the tips above: keep them in a cool place, and separate them from the bunch. You can also wrap the stems in plastic wrap, preventing them from ripening up faster than you'd like.
Image: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images; Giphy