Ever since the 1940s, when the original "Chiquita Banana" song first introduced this yellow tropical fruit to us, bananas have become a major staple in our kitchens. It's almost hard to imagine a time when bananas were considered exotic (especially since we can now find them at every supermarket, gas station and coffee shop, every single day of the year).
The original song, which at its peak was played 376 times a day on the radio, was written to educate people on how to discern when bananas are ripe: "When they are flecked with brown and have a golden hue" Miss Chiquita sang, as she introduced this new fruit. She even warned that "bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator, so you should never put bananas in the refrigerator."
Anyone who has really listened to the lyrics of the "Chiquita Banana" song knows not to put their bananas in the fridge; though many of us have thrown caution to the wind and done it anyway, only to find our yellow bananas turned completely black and utterly tasteless. We know we should listen to Miss Chiquita, but do any of us know why? What is it that makes a banana turn completely brown once exposed to the cold?
A banana's skin consists of plant cells and cellular tissue. This tissue contains phenolic compounds which provides bananas with their iconic yellow color. Bananas ripen with the help of natural acid productions and when exposed to the cold, this acid production slows down and so does the ripening -- rendering the bananas nearly inedible.
The cold, whether natural or a result of refrigeration, quickly breaks down the cell walls of the banana peel. This results in cell membranes that are weak and susceptible to leaking. When the membranes weaken, the phenolic compounds mix with polyphenol oxidase (yes, we know this is getting pretty scientific, but bear with us). As a result of this interaction, the phelonic compounds oxidize and produce a brown compound called melanin, turning our bananas completely black.
So a good rule of thumb is to keep your bananas far, far away from any cold temperatures. That way you can enjoy a taste of the tropics any time of year. Chiquita Banana knows what she's talking about!
What's your favorite banana recipe? Leave a comment below!
Banana recipes we love: