Have you ever wondered why some people keep their bananas on little hangers? Is it just to make them look like they’re still hanging on a banana tree? Is there any scientific justification to the belief that keeping bananas bunched on hooks makes them last longer?
There is some science behind banana hangers, and it has to do with optimizing the banana ripening process. When most fruits ripen, they emit a gas called ethylene which makes enzymes break down their starches into softer, more palatable sugars. Bananas emit far more ethylene than other fruits, which means that if they are left unattended, they usually have a shorter shelf life than other fruits. Banana hangers, also sometimes known as banana hooks and banana holders, help your bananas last longer and ripen evenly.
Because bananas are often shipped thousands of miles from the farm to their retail destination, they are picked from the tree while they are still green. As soon as the bananas are picked, they begin emitting ethylene gas to help them ripen. Most of the ethylene gas is emitted from the bunch’s stem but wrapping the bunch’s stem in cellophane can slow down natural ripening. It is for this reason that you often see green banana bunches with what looks like clear tape or plastic wrap around the top when they are first taken out of their boxes.
When bananas ripen, the ethylene gas emitted from the stem stimulates enzymes in the fruit that break down both their green chlorophyll and their firm starches. An enzyme called amylase breaks down the starches in the banana into smaller sugars and an enzyme called pectinase breaks down the cell walls in the fruit. The breaking down of the chlorophyll turns the bananas their more appetizing yellow (or purple for some varieties), and the breakdown of the starches into sugars makes them softer and more palatable.
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Most fruits ripen in a similar fashion, but bananas emit far more ethylene than most other fruits and therefore ripen much more rapidly. After ripening begins, you only have a few days to enjoy your bananas before they overripen and turn completely brown. Moreover, as the fruit naturally softens, it can bruise under its own weight, which releases an enzyme called polyphenol which turns the peel and fruit even more brown. Banana ripening is a rapidly accelerating process that needs to be slowed down unless you plan to eat all your bananas within just a day or two.
Banana hangers slow down the banana ripening process and delay spoiling in two ways. First, they allow air to circulate around the fruit which removes excess ethylene. The less ethylene the bananas are exposed to, the more slowly they will ripen. With air circulation, they are also more likely to ripen evenly instead of mostly on one side, which they tend to do when left sitting on a counter. Second, banana hangers also prevent the bananas from sitting upon a hard surface and bruising under their own weight.
So, if you love bananas, make sure you invest in a banana hanger to make them last longer!