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How to Cook Bananas

Americans tend to think of bananas as a healthy snack or a dessert ingredient, but bananas are terrific for any meal. Rich in vitamin B6, C, manganese, and folate, the fruit also contains vitamin A, E, and C – plus calcium and potassium. Bananas are also full of sweet, rich flavor.

How to buy bananas

Although you may buy bananas any time of year, they are generally most flavorful in the summer and fall. Any banana you purchase should be fairly firm to the touch, and should never have a gray tint. (Grayish bananas have been refrigerated, which means they can’t ripen properly.)

It’s important to remember the flavor of a banana changes depending upon its ripeness. For the strongest banana flavor, use ripe (not green or over-ripe) bananas. For less potent banana flavor, select bananas that are still a little green or are completely yellow (and have no brown spots).

When is a banana over-ripe? When its peel is totally brown and the fruit is watery and smells fermented. A well-ripened banana is has a brown peel, or many brown spots on a yellow peel.

Proper storage

Bananas and plantains are best stored on the counter, but if you want to slow down their ripening for a day or two, stick them in the refrigerator, away from other fruits and vegetables. Green bananas must be left at room temperature to ripen. Once they are refrigerated, they loose their ability to ripen properly.

Bananas may also be frozen. Whole bananas should be peeled and wrapped individually in plastic wrap, then placed in a freezer bag. Mashed bananas can also be frozen in freezer bags. If you’re worried about the fruit turning brownish, sprinkle it with a little lemon, lime, or orange juice (about one tablespoon per cup) as soon as possible after peeling. Frozen bananas keep for about two weeks.

General cooking tips

Always peel bananas just before using, to help them keep their whitish color.

Many cooking recipes call for mashed bananas. When this is the case, be sure to measure out the mashed banana, rather than just mashing a certain quantities of bananas. (Bananas vary greatly in size.)

In the Pacific, bananas are often used to replace rice in dishes. Simply cut the peeled fruit lengthwise, cover it with a little cooking spray, brown and mash.

Dried bananas are a favorite snack in the Pacific, and much better than store bought bananas chips (which tend to be fried in fattening oils). To make your own, use green or just-ripe bananas. Peel and slice into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. If you wish to reduce browning, toss a little lemon, lime, orange, or pineapple juice over the slices. Dry the slices on a baking sheet in the sun and store in sealed plastic bags.

To bake bananas, first peel them, then place them on a cooking sheet in the oven until browned.

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