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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Bananas

I had a very interesting visit to the "Banana Room" at Market Gardeners Christchurch HQ today. This is such an enormous space! When they say "room", what they mean is an area pretty much the size of an aircraft hangar, as most bananas destined for sale in the South Island go through this facility.

Boxes of bananas in a warehouse with forklift trucks and people in the background

Bananas still on the tree waiting to be picked

The bananas come from Ecuador or the Philippines and take approximately four weeks to arrive via sea freight.

Even though we are all about locally-grown produce here at Eatlocal, where would we be without bananas? This is the one product that we have to source from overseas as, although they are grown here on a very small scale, New Zealand cannot support much more than the local farmer's market demands in the North Island.

Once the bananas are inside the facility, they are fumigated to kill off any bugs or nasties that may have tried to hitch a ride on the journey, so thankfully no gigantic spiders ever make it through (phew!).

The boxes then go into various pressurised and temperature-controlled rooms to ripen them ready for sale to retailers. If any need ripening quickly, they can be gassed with ethylene, which is the natural gas released by bananas when they are already ripe.

That's why, for example, when you want to ripen an avocado, placing it in a bag with a banana will help to quicken that process.

Bananas go through seven stages of ripening, from Stage 1, which is fully green, right up to Stage 7, fully yellow with brown spots. Those are the ones that get left in your fruit bowl because nobody wants them, but they are awesome for making banana bread or muffins with! As bananas ripen, the starches inside them convert to sugars. This natural process makes brown bananas significantly sweeter than their firm, yellow counterparts. The increased sugar content translates into a more intense banana flavour in your baked goods.  Ripe bananas have a higher moisture content than unripe bananas, adding moisture to your baking, and preventing your cakes from becoming dry and crumbly.

A guide showing the different stages of ripeness of bananas with a numbered index above

Here at Eatlocal, we aim for Stage 4-4.5 bananas so that they will be perfect for eating once you receive them.

Our Fruit At Work Box customers receive Stage 4.5 fruit, as these can eaten immediately, but will hold for a few days.

A wooden crate laden with fresh fruit on a wooden table

It was so interesting to learn about this process, and we would like to thank Matt House at MG for his time and expert knowledge on all things bananas!


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