How to Store Bananas for Extended Shelf Life

There are two stages of bananas in our house. Almost ripe, just like how I like to eat them right out of the peel. And brown and speckled, just how Bill likes them.

I guess we have a symbiotic banana relationship in that everyone always gets the kind of banana they want — assuming I eat them as soon as they arrive from the grocery store. Bill? He’s much more mellow about it.

Anway, I’ve since learned that how you store bananas properly can dramatically extend their shelf life. These tips can also preserve their taste and nutritional value.

bananas on a table
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Store bananas to keep them fresh

By managing temperature and handling carefully, you can extend the life of bananas so they stay fresh and delicious longer. It’s a simple process. However, knowing the proper steps can prevent brown, gooey bananas — unless that’s how you like them.

Also, this can help reduce food waste, assuming you throw away food scraps. We don’t. We compost our food scraps. Even so, I do like to get as much life out of bananas as we can.

Top freshness factors

Here are the elements that affect how long your bananas stay fresh.

  • Temperature: This plays a significant role in the ripening process of bananas. They ripen best at room temperature, so keeping them away from extreme cold or heat is essential. Cold temperatures slow down the ripening, while heat accelerates it.
  • Light exposure: Keep bananas away from direct sunlight. Indirect or artificial light will prevent premature ripening and the development of brown spots.
  • Ethylene gas: Bananas release ethylene gas, which promotes ripening in fruits. Good airflow prevents the buildup of ethylene gas, which can lead to overripening.
  • Careful handling: Bananas that are bruised or physically damaged spoil more quickly.

How to store bananas

Unwrap your bananas if they come in plastic wrap, or remove any stickers. This allows the bananas to breathe and reduces moisture buildup, which leads to faster decay.

Room temperature storage is crucial to maintain the freshness of bananas. It can significantly extend their shelf life and keep them tasting their best.

How to store bananas on the countertop

Place bananas on your countertop, away from direct sunlight, heat sources and other fruit. Make sure there is good air circulation to prevent moisture buildup.

A fruit bowl is one of the worst places to store bananas since many other fruits, like apples and peaches, also release ethylene gas. Remember my tip for getting a good avocado to ripen fast? Yup, store them in a paper bag with an apple. Darn apples and your ability to over ripen fruit faster.

Some people hang bananas on a specialized banana hanger, which reduces pressure points, minimizes bruising and ensures good airflow. Separating the bananas from the bunch also helps improve the airflow. That’s what Jere’ Cassidy who writes One Hot Oven discovered.

“I separate a bunch of bananas and store them in a bowl on the counter,” she says. “Once I started doing this, the bananas stayed fresh longer than being kept in a bunch.”

Wrapping the stems

Wrapping the stems of bananas in plastic wrap effectively slows down the room-temperature ripening process. The stems release the ethylene gas, so covering them traps the gas.

This simple technique can keep room-temperature bananas firm and yellow for longer. Just a small piece of plastic wrap can make all the difference in extending bananas’ shelf life.

OK, I’ll admit that I always thought this was an old wives tale. But it works. You know what works even better? Separating the bananas. Then wrapped the stems.

How to store bananas in the refrigerator

Placing bananas in the refrigerator extends their shelf life once they’ve reached the desired level of ripeness. The cold temperature slows down the production of ethylene gas.

Although the skin may darken, the fruit inside remains firm and unchanged. Again, keep the refrigerated bananas away from other fruit to prevent further ripening. Refrigerated bananas will last for five to seven days.

How to store bananas in the freezer

Freezing bananas is a straightforward process that preserves their sweetness and nutritional value. It’s an excellent way to extend their shelf life for smoothies, baking banana bread or as a chilled snack. Frozen bananas keep well for about three months.

Freezing whole bananas

Before freezing whole bananas, remove the peel. The peel becomes dark and very difficult to remove once frozen.

After peeling the bananas, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them until they are solid. Then, transfer the bananas to a freezer-safe bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing to prevent freezer burn.

Freezing sliced bananas

Banana slices can also be frozen. First, peel the bananas and then cut them into half-inch slices.

Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze the slices until they are solid, then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag. Remove as much air as possible when sealing to keep the sliced bananas fresh.

“I’ve started freezing bananas, so I always have them ready for smoothies and baking recipes,” says Susannah Brinkley Henry who writes the Feast + West blog.

Banana ripeness stages

Recognizing the right time to move bananas from the counter to a freezer or refrigerator can be the difference between enjoying the fruit and throwing it out.

  • Green: These bananas are not yet ripe, which is perfect if you don’t plan to eat them right away.
  • Yellow with green tips: These are best for eating within a few days.
  • Bright yellow: The yellow indicates fully ripe bananas that are ready to eat right now.
  • Yellow with brown spots: This is when bananas have reached their highest sweetness, so eat them soon.
  • Brown: This indicates overripe bananas suitable for baking banana bread or muffins.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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