Do Bananas Really Ripen More Slowly When They're Separated?

Putting Tips to the Test in the Kitchen

How do you store your bananas? Do you keep them together in a bunch? Do you separate them as soon as you get home from the grocery store?

Some people insist that when bananas are separated, they last longer than when they're kept as a bunch. I also found a tip that takes it one step further. So of course, I had to put this to the test to see if it actually works.

The Original Tip

The tip I read notes that to slow ripening, bananas should not only be separated, but the top of the stems should also be tightly wrapped with plastic wrap. The idea behind this is that like many fruits, bananas emit ethylene gas. This controls the fruit's browning and ripening, as well as that of other fruits nearby. Ethylene gas is naturally released through the stems of the bananas.

Separating, and especially covering the end of the stems, should contain the release of this gas, thereby slowing the rate of ripening.

The Testing Method

I bought two bunches of not-quite-ripe, vibrant yellow bananas, with a little bit of green near the stem. I selected bunches that had the least amount of brown spots or blemishes, were roughly the same size, and had equal ripeness. I left one bunch whole, and separated the second bunch. I left half of the second bunch as is, and for the other half I wrapped the stems with a piece of plastic wrap. I stored the bananas in my kitchen, away from direct sunlight.

I ran this experiment twice. The first time around, the bananas seemed to all ripen at the exact same rate. Maybe I wasn't watching them close enough. So, for the second experiment, I monitored the bananas more closely.

I monitored the bananas for seven days to see which group ripened faster, and garnered more freckles and brown spots on a daily basis. Here's the day-by-day run down.

Day 1: I brought the bananas home from the store. No change in ripening.

Day 2: Both the bunch of bananas and both groups that were separated have started to lose the green hue around the stem. All of the bananas still look about the same, with no noticeable difference.

Day 3 - All three groups of bananas are starting to ripen.

Day 3: All of the bananas are starting to ripen. There's not one group that stands out as ripening faster or slower, they all appear to be ripening at the same pace.

Day 4 - Banana ripening is picking up speed. Could the separated bananas have more brown spots than the bunch?

Day 4: The pace of ripening really picked up for all the bananas. All three groups have moved beyond a few brown freckles to having many brown spots. The bunch of bananas, separated bananas, and those with plastic-wrapped stems appear to be ripening at an equal pace. There's no significantly noticeable difference between the groups.

Day 5 - Is it just me, or are the separated bananas ripening faster?

Day 5: If anything, it's starting to look like the bananas that were separated are actually ripening faster than the bananas in the bunch.

Day 6: Each group of bananas continues to ripen. And, it still seems like the bunch of bananas is ripening slightly slower than the ones that were separated.

Day 7 - The bananas that were separated from the bunch definitely look more ripe.

Day 7: The difference isn't huge, but the bananas that were separated have definitely ripened faster than the ones kept as a bunch.

The Results

Bananas do not ripen significantly slower when they're separated. Both times I ran this experiment the bananas that were separated actually ripened faster than the bunch. And, wrapping the stem with plastic wrap didn't seem to change the speed of ripening.

Verdict: This is not a mind-blowing tip

Final Notes

I have always kept bananas stored as a bunch in a bowl on the counter, pulling one off as I was ready to eat it. Since there was no noticeable, significant difference in separating bananas immediately after purchase, I'll stick to keeping my bananas bunched together.

How do you store your bananas? Do you have any tips for making them last even longer?

(Image credits: Kelli Foster)