Some bananas are sweeter than others. How is that?
Having purchased the golden fruit many times, I asked myself, why are some bananas sweeter than others?
You pick up a bunch of small, curly, bright yellow fruits.¹ You take them home. On the way, you remove the one with the label. You peel it most of the way down. With a few quick bites, you finish it off. You go shopping again. Displayed are large, straight bananas.
You note some bananas are sweeter, while others are starchier.
Each variety of banana is grown for a specific end use. Some (plantains) are fried in a skillet. They are starchy. Others are raised for sweetness and aroma. Those are called dessert bananas. The most popular form of dessert banana is the Cavendish.
The Cavendish Banana
Bananas do not grow on trees. They are herbaceous plants. Oddly, this golden fruit is considered a berry. Perhaps what this categorization suggests is that man-made classifications need to be ‘revisited’.
The dessert banana is harvested in the mature green state. After shipping, they are ripened using ethylene gas.² This is performed in rooms that feature controlled humidity. This turns the bananas bright yellow. If temperatures are low they turn gray. This results in an inferior product.
Some Bananas are Sweeter
Since the U.S. banana found in most stores most commonly is the Cavendish, what makes the sweetness and flavor of one batch better than another?
Flavor and Sunlight
First, some of the tropical fruits are much more curved than others. This is because they reach toward the sun. Since sunlight is part of the maturing and ripening process, this could account for a marginal increase in sugar content and resulting fruit sweetness.
The Primary Factor
Most of the ripening does not occur on the plant. The bulk of the variance in color, flavor, sweetness, and texture comes from the processing at its ship-to location. Yes, some are sweeter than others.
1 Classic dessert bananas.
2 The fruit naturally produces ethylene gas; it would be unfair to assert the commercial process is artificial.
Note: You might also enjoy Vanilla and Vanillin: What’s the Difference?
- UC, Davis: Banana: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality
- Purdue University: Banana
- Universiti Putra Malaysia: Plastid Ultrastructure…