Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Go Soft: Riper Is Nicer with Bananas

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Go Soft: Riper Is Nicer with Bananas

Article excerpt

THE SOFTER the banana, the stronger its appeal for me. This is not a shared view in my household. The minute the skins of the bananas on our kitchen counter start to turn brown, our kids abandon the fruit.

Youth rarely appreciates noble rot. But that is what is happening under the skin. As a banana gets softer, it gets sweeter. Its sugar content rises from about 2 percent in the green stage of its life to 20 percent when it gets old and mushy.

When the bananas in our house start to go downhill, I'm there to take advantage of their slide. Bananas with a little mush in them give a bowl of ice cream a certain sugary decomposition, which is much more appealing to the veteran dessert eater than the pulpy, puppy-love flavor delivered by younger bananas. And, of course, to make memorable banana ice cream or banana bread, you have to allow the main ingredient time to decay. I equate bananas with dessert, which probably marks me as a conventional thinker. I have heard about avant-garde eaters who treat various types of bananas like potatoes, mashing them; who pair them with soft cheeses; who marry them to spicy Indian rice dishes. All that sounds intriguing but strikes me as an "advanced banana" lifestyle. I am into "basic banana." Instead of buying the compact, worldly banana, the plantain, I buy bunches of the basic banana, called the Cavendish. I bring the bananas home from the supermarket, put them on the kitchen counter and watch the kids forage. They feed until they find a flaw. They drop a soft banana like a hot potato. That is when I take the fallen fruit into my clutches. Sometimes I will allow the older banana to influence some of the younger, greener ones. I will put the mature banana in a brown paper bag with the young ones. Nature takes its course. The ethylene gas given off by the decaying banana will ripen the callow youths, making them softer and infinitely more appealing. Here are two recipes for banana dishes. …

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