Thursday, November 8, 2012

All about Ripening Bananas A.K.A. Do bananas have souls?

I've long heard that putting fruit like bananas in a paper bag will ripen them faster - something to do with the gases given off speeds up the ripening process and the bag somehow traps these gases. But with every produce expert online there still doesn't seem to be any measure of how much faster the ripening occurs so I decided to do some experiments of my own. I called these experiments "Do bananas have souls?" after the famous "scientific" study on human souls by Duncan MacDougall.

To begin, I weighed six bananas on my home kitchen scale every morning for 10 days. Below you can see how one of the bananas fared before I turned it into a delicious banana bread. (In case you cant tell from the images, the units are grams)
On average, the bananas each lost about 3.5g each day. Over 10 days, each banana lost between 13% and 15% of the original weight (buying already ripe bananas is a good deal!). There wasn't any significant difference between the weight change of the larger (239g) and the smaller (203g) bananas. There was a decrease in the rate of loss over time (see graph below).
Average weight loss per day for six bananas left on a counter.
The next step was to test if putting bananas in a plastic bag would really ripen the bananas faster. For this experiment I took 6 bananas and put two in a paper bag (paper group), two in a plastic bag (plastic group), and left two out in the open (control group). The paper and control groups both ripened at about the same rates as the first experiment. The control group actually ripened slightly faster (about 0.5g/day) than the paper group. The plastic, however, hardly ripened at all losing about 0.7g per day. On top of that the plastic group tasted off; I would not recomend putting fruit in plastic bags. Below you can see the results from this experiment.
Results of the "Do bananas have souls?" experiment: the bananas put in a plastic bag (top) did not ripen as fast and tasted weird; in paper (middle) ripened normally or maybe a little slower than if left on the counter (bottom).
The conclusion of this experiment is that bananas do have souls. All joking aside, putting bananas in paper bags doesn't seem to have a very big impact on the rate fruit ripens. If anything, it might slow it down slightly. Most of all, we learned not to put fruit in plastic bags.

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