I had a very interesting look inside the "Banana Room" at Market Gardeners Christchurch HQ today. This is such an enormous space! When they say "room", what they really mean is an area pretty much the size of an aircraft hangar, as every single banana destined for sale in the South Island goes through this facility!
The bananas are sent here via sea freight and take four weeks to arrive at their destination here in New Zealand.
The bananas come in from either Ecuador or the Philippines.
Even though we are all about locally-grown produce here at Eatlocal, where would we all be without bananas? This is the one product that we have to source from overseas as we aren't able to grow them here in New Zealand in sufficient quantities to satisfy more than local farmer's market demands.
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, for example, 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!
Here at Eatlocal we buy Stage 2-2.5 green bananas so that they will ripen on your bench, and not in transit on their way to you.
Our Fruit At Work Box customers receive slightly yellower bananas, Stage 5, as they need ones that are ready to be eaten straight away.
It was so interesting to learn about this process, and we would like to thank Matt House at MG for his time and for passing on his expert knowledge about all things bananas!