During a recent shopping trip, I picked up too many bananas. Although I tried to eat one every morning with my cereal, I soon had a bunch of spotted, mushy bananas on my counter. Suddenly, I wasn’t so excited about my peanut butter and banana sandwiches and started to wonder if the bananas were still safe to eat. So I asked myself, “When is a banana too ripe.” I did a little research and learned a great deal about bananas.
When is a banana too ripe to eat?
A banana is too ripe and not safe to eat if
- the banana has turned black on the peel and inside
- there is mold on the outside of the banana
- the banana is leaking liquid
- the banana is soft and mushy all over
Unfortunately, bananas are fickle and go from green and unripe to black and rotten in just a few days. Though it is easy to recognize a banana that has gone bad, bananas go through several stages of ripeness, and it can be difficult to tell when bananas are at best and when you should throw them away.
How To Know If a Banana Is Ripe, Overripe, or Too Ripe to Eat
Ideally, ripe bananas should have a bright yellow peel and be a bit slightly firm. It is easy to identify a perfectly ripe banana. However, it is a bit harder to tell the difference between an overripe banana and a banana that has gone bad.
An overripe banana may have brown spots or streaks of brown and black on the peel or even be mostly black on the outside. A mushy banana that has a few soft spots may also be overripe. In addition to being a bit softer than ripe fruit, overripe bananas may have soft spots due to bruises. Overripe bananas may not be as pretty as perfectly yellow bananas, but they are still perfectly safe to eat. Overripe bananas may taste better than younger bananas because the sugar is more concentrated and will have a sweeter flavor. Slightly overripe bananas are the ones that most people prefer.
There is a fine line between an overripe banana and a banana that has gone bad, and the transition can happen very quickly. Since an overripe but safe-to-eat banana can have a great deal of black on the peel, it is hard to tell if a banana is too ripe to eat by sight alone. Instead, you will need to investigate more closely to determine if a banana has gone bad. Often, a rotten banana will have mold on the peel or at the stem. Occasionally a banana peel will split open, and mold will grow at the split. This mold can be difficult to see because it blends in with the flesh’s color inside the peel. Any bananas with mold or peels that have split open have gone bad.
Aside from mold, there are a few other hints that a banana is rotting. Usually, the most obvious sign is an odor of mildew or decay. Any sign of decay should be taken to mean that the banana is not safe to eat. A banana that has gone bad may leak liquid or feel as if there is liquid under the skin. Fruit flies near a bunch of bananas are another sign that one has turned bad.
Once peeled, a banana may have even more signs that it has turned bad. A ripe to overripe banana should have white or cream-colored flesh. A banana that is too ripe to eat or has gone bad maybe brown inside.
Why Do Bananas Turn Brown?
Like many other tropical fruits, bananas are significantly impacted by ethylene gas. Ethylene is a naturally-occurring plant hormone, but it is also used in the agriculture industry to encourage ripening. As bananas age, the amount of ethylene gas they release increases, leading to brown and eventually black spots and streaks. Though ethylene gas is essential for ripening over time, it causes bananas to soften and rot. You can slow this process by placing bananas in the refrigerator. The cold climate suppresses ethylene gas and gives bananas a longer life span.
Can Overripe Bananas Make You Sick
Generally, overripe bananas are safe to eat. Overripe bananas contain more vitamin C and antioxidants than unripe or ripe fruit. However, overripe bananas contain a large amount of sugar and can give some people an upset stomach.
On the other hand, a banana that has gone bad or is rotten is not safe to eat. A banana that is too ripe to eat may contain mold. Mold on bananas, and other fruits can cause allergic reactions, respiratory issues, organ damage, neurodevelopmental disorders, and neuropsychological problems.
When Do Bananas Go Bad?
Bananas have a relatively short lifespan and can start to go bad quickly. Usually, a green banana will ripen, at room temperature, in two to five days. A perfectly ripe banana will only stay in that range for about two or three days. After that time, bananas enter the overripe stage and should be quickly used. Once a banana peel has started to turn brown, it may begin to go bad in just a few days. However, a banana’s timeline can vary greatly depending on the environment and temperature. It is best to judge a banana-based on appearance, smell, and touch rather than days.
What To Do With Bananas That Have Gone Bad?
A banana that has started to rot should not be eaten and should be thrown away immediately. However, take special care with a banana that has mold. Spores from mold can quickly spread through the air and cause health problems if inhaled. If a banana has mold, wrap it in a paper or plastic bag and place it carefully in the trash bin. Remove the trash from your home as soon as possible and ensure that children and pets do not have access to it.
Watch this video to learn the trick of keeping your bananas fresh for longer:
What Can I Do With Overripe Bananas?
Overripe bananas can be very sweet, which makes them perfect for eating and cooking. If you are eating an overripe banana alone, simply cut off any soft spots. However, soft bananas that have not started to rot or go bad are perfect additions to smoothies and can be blended into naturally sweet ice cream. Of course, the most popular use of overripe bananas is homemade banana bread which depends on soft bananas for texture and sweet flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are fermented bananas safe to eat?
Fermented bananas, made from ripe or overripe bananas, are safe to eat. Fermented foods, including fermented bananas, are a good source of probiotics that can improve gut health. However, fermented bananas should never be made from bananas that have gone bad, turned black, or have mold on either the inside or outside.
2. Can frozen bananas make you sick?
Bananas frozen when ripe or slightly overripe should not make you sick. Frozen bananas are a tasty treat on their own and can be used in smoothies, ice cream, and shakes or eaten on their own. Bananas frozen and thawed will be mushy and unpleasant to eat but can still be used in baking. However, bananas that were black, rotten, or had mold should never be frozen and can make you sick.
3. How should bananas be stored?
How to best store bananas depends on their degree of ripeness. Storing green bananas on the counter will encourage them to ripen. Though green bananas can be stored directly on the counter or in a fruit bowl, hanging them on a metal or wood banana tree will prevent them from bruising. Store ripe bananas in the refrigerator to prolong their lifespan. Overripe bananas with brown spots should be stored in the refrigerator and used quickly. Overripe bananas can also be peeled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for later use.
4. How can I ripen a banana quickly?
Green bananas not yet ripe will ripen for two to three days while resting on the counter. But, there are a few tricks you can use to encourage a banana to ripen more quickly. Never separate under-ripe bananas from the bunch since the bananas attached will ripen more rapidly. You can also green bananas in a brown paper bag and roll the top closed. If you need to ripen a banana to be used in baked goods, put the unpeeled banana in the oven for 15 minutes at 300 degrees.
5. Can I eat green bananas?
Green bananas are not ripe yet. They will taste less sweet and will feel firmer than ripe bananas. Green bananas are likely to cause digestive and stomach discomfort.