Stop the War on Imperfect Bananas!

CC BY 2.0. keepon

Did you know Britons throw away 1.4 million bananas each day because of small blemishes?

It’s an argument I sometimes have with my kids when they come home from school, a blackened banana still in their lunch bags: “That black spot does not mean it’s bad!” I peel it open to show that the inside is just fine, and then they’re happy to munch away.

Unfortunately, it seems that many adults are not so easily convinced. A study from the United Kingdom government’s waste advisory board has found that Britons throw away 1.4 million bananas every day, often because of a minor bruise or mark. One in 10 customers throws away a banana for having green on its skin. Clearly banana education is sorely needed in the UK if green is seen more as a sign of inedibility than pre-ripeness.

This is heart-breaking for so many reasons. There’s the fact that an imported, exotic, tropical fruit has been relegated to the lowest of the low when it comes to the fruit bowl, that banana production is rife with human rights abuses and environmental degradation, and that the banana, as we know it, is at risk of extinction. This is not a fruit we should be treating carelessly.

In response, Sainsbury’s has launched ‘banana rescue’ stations in supermarkets across the country, showing people how to use their old (or new) bananas to avoid such unnecessary food waste. The stations give advice for baking with mashed bananas, adding them chopped to fruit salads, and whizzing in smoothies. While these banana-resuscitation techniques may be old hat for many frugal home cooks, it appears they’re not as common knowledge as one might think.

There are so many ways to use old bananas! Think of them as your best friend in the kitchen, a magic bullet solution to make everything from curry to pancakes taste like a million bucks. Here are some ideas:

  • Mash and add to any baking you do – cookie dough, waffle batter, bread, and muffins. Or feed the mash to a baby who doesn’t care what it looks like.
  • Use it as a sweetener. Banana can add a sweet note to porridge, baked oatmeal, or cereal in the mornings.
  • Blend with milk for an easy smoothie or add to a protein shake. Spoon some mashed banana into hot chocolate.
  • Slice bananas over everything. You could make a Brazilian-style banana pizza (“cartola”) with mozzarella, sliced bananas, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  • Dry them out. Put them in a dehydrator to make banana chips.
  • Bananas go well with spicy savory foods, like curry sauces and marinades.
  • Eat the highly nutritious peels! Yes, you read that right. Here's a YouTube video on how to do it.
  • Make ice cream. Blend frozen banana slices, either plain or with cocoa powder and agave nectar; or add to regular dairy-based ice cream.
  • Slice and freeze on a wax-paper lined baking sheet, then transfer to a container. Eat for snack. For an extra special treat, roll slices in chocolate, chopped nuts, or coconut before freezing.
  • Fry them in slices (like plantains served for breakfast in Central and South America). Dust with cinnamon and sugar. Really good served with soft cheese like queso fresco or queijo coalho.
  • Make a decadent, alcoholic banana rum fizz for a sultry summer night.

If you're not into cooking, then you could do what Michele Hanson humorously advises -- use bananas to answer the big questions in life!

"Is there a God? Am I ever going to be happy? And such like. You may not know this, but if you cut the very end off a banana (the pointy bit at the bottom end, not the stem end), you will find that the cut exposes a black dot, or a black Y. Ask the important question, then take a look: a dot means 'no', a Y means 'yes'."