Are these banana myths true?

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Lazar
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Are these banana myths true?

Postby Lazar » Sun May 24, 2015 6:58 pm UTC

There are two claims I've commonly heard about bananas – specifically, about the replacement of the Gros Michel variety by the Cavendish variety:

1.The reason why "banana-flavored" things don't taste like bananas is that these flavors were formulated in imitation of the Gros Michel. When the Gros Michel disappeared from the market, they didn't bother changing the artificial banana flavor.

2. The trope of banana peels being slippery comes from the Gros Michel, which has a slipperier peel. If we had been using Cavendish from the start, no one would have ever thought to do a slippery banana peel gag.

But I have no idea whether these claims are true – and given that almost no one born in the West after 1950 has eaten or even seen a Gros Michel, they feel a little like just-so stories. So is there anything to them, or are they baseless?
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby almach » Sun May 31, 2015 8:30 pm UTC

I cannot link to my sources because I'm under five posts, but a quick Google informed me that:

1. A BBC article on artificial flavourings claims that this is not true. It says that artificial banana flavour is developed from one chemical, isoamyl acetate, which has a distinctively banana-like smell/taste. They seem to conclude from this that banana flavour couldn't be "based on" Gros Michel; however, they do note that Gros Michel has a sweeter and simpler flavour than the Cavendish, tasting more candy-like, so it could "just happen" to taste more like the artificial flavour does. I think this is a bit suspect because, if Cavendish had been the dominant banana variety when isoamyl acetate was discovered (or discovered to smell like banana), wouldn't the standard artificial banana flavour have become some combination of isoamyl acetate and something that makes it taste more like a Cavendish? There doesn't seem to be any specific research on what the original confectioners were going for. However, if Gros Michel does taste like the artificial banana flavour, it is beyond me how bananas ever became popular in the West.

2. A Mental Floss article says that poor urban waste management in the 19th century led to streets often being fraught with stray banana peels, the rotten ones being especially hazardous for pedestrians, because a rotten banana peel -- Cavendish or Gros Michel -- is rather slippery. The public nuisance became a vaudeville trope, but comedians used fresh peels, presumably because no one wanted the mess or smell, and for acting, a fresh peel is fine. So while it's true that a banana peel as we'd normally encounter one is not really slippery enough to be dangerous on a high-friction surface like a sidewalk, the mistake is that we are comparing fresh peels to rotten ones, not Cavendish to Gros Michel.

Hope that helps.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Sun May 31, 2015 8:35 pm UTC

I did prove one thing about bananas through experimentation: if you enclose individual bananas in plastic wrap, they last over twice as long before going brown. They still get soft and maybe bruised in the centre, but somehow that's easier to deal with than a banana that resembles a ... black mushy thing.

This has made a world of difference in my banana shopping. I can now confidently purchase up to five bananas at once, a foolhardy number in my earlier days, and have one every weekday with breakfast!
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby almach » Sun May 31, 2015 8:48 pm UTC

poxic wrote:I did prove one thing about bananas through experimentation: if you enclose individual bananas in plastic wrap, they last over twice as long before going brown. They still get soft and maybe bruised in the centre, but somehow that's easier to deal with than a banana that resembles a ... black mushy thing.


IIRC from grade 12 chemistry, that'd be because you're reducing their exposure to ethylene, the fruit ripening gas.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:57 am UTC

It must be more complicated than that. Bananas are notorious as producers of etylene, so even other fruits ripe faster in the neighbourhood of bananas. If you pack them in a bag, they ripe faster

The innards getting soft is the ripening - blackening of the skin might be a different phenomenon. The fridge seems to have the opposte effect: the inside stays firm while the skin blackens

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby almach » Mon Jun 01, 2015 2:45 pm UTC

It seems you're right.

Chow.com wrote:Banana skins are made up of plant cells. In each of those cells there is a vacuole, a little fluid-filled compartment that’s contained by a membrane. When a banana gets too cold, the membranes weaken and leak. Adel Kader, a professor emeritus in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, explains that phenolic compounds that are in the vacuole along with the fluids mix with polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme found in the cell’s cytoplasm (that’s the jellylike stuff that parts of a cell hang out in). The phenolic compounds oxidize and form a brown compound called melanin.


Sciencechatforum.com wrote:A non-ripe green banana peel contains a plant hormone called ethylene. This gaseous chemical is responsible for helping ripen the banana to yellow color. At the same time, some natural acids are also being produced which regulate the ripening process and make the banana sweet (inside the banana, the large number of enzymes of Kreb’s cycle convert citric acid, mallic acid and oxalic acid into glucose, which turn the banana sweet during the process of ripening).

When someone puts a banana in the fridge, the production of these natural acids slows down as consequence of the cold temperature and, as a result, the ripening process of its interior slows down.


So I guess wrapping the banana prevents the oxidization of the polyphenols, keeping the peel yellow, while still allowing ethylene to trigger the conversion of the banana's starches etc into glucose, softening and sweetening it.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:59 pm UTC

That seems to be what's happening. Next science to perform: put a wrapped banana in the fridge. I am actually curious to see what happens to it.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Whizbang » Mon Jun 01, 2015 5:01 pm UTC

Last edited by Whizbang on Tue Jun 02, 2015 3:48 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:56 pm UTC

Apparently bananas are a thing right now. Here, have some science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR1N8yvyP0s (SciShow)
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jun 02, 2015 5:58 am UTC

poxic wrote:That seems to be what's happening. Next science to perform: put a wrapped banana in the fridge. I am actually curious to see what happens to it.

Make it a double blind experiment.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:11 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:It must be more complicated than that. Bananas are notorious as producers of etylene, so even other fruits ripe faster in the neighbourhood of bananas.


Bananas are like the uranium of the vegetable world.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby mathmannix » Tue Jun 02, 2015 1:22 pm UTC


Hey, now I know where that avatar somebody had came from! Who had that avatar? (I always thought it was a picture of Winnie the Pooh's head exploding, not a caveman getting poo dumped on him!)
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Deva » Tue Jun 02, 2015 2:53 pm UTC

Changes its form depending on the observer.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:10 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
poxic wrote:That seems to be what's happening. Next science to perform: put a wrapped banana in the fridge. I am actually curious to see what happens to it.

Make it a double blind experiment.

Is it good enough if I keep my eyes closed while I take it out of the fridge?
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:36 pm UTC

poxic wrote:
Zamfir wrote:
poxic wrote:That seems to be what's happening. Next science to perform: put a wrapped banana in the fridge. I am actually curious to see what happens to it.

Make it a double blind experiment.

Is it good enough if I keep my eyes closed while I take it out of the fridge?

No. For double blindness, you need someone else standing next to you who also keeps their eyes shut.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby mathmannix » Wed Jun 03, 2015 6:10 pm UTC

Deva wrote:Bakemaster.

Thanks as always, Deva!
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:51 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:
Deva wrote:Bakemaster.

Thanks as always, Deva!

Huh. I always just thought he was wearing a wierd hat.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:48 pm UTC

Nope, poop.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby oxoiron » Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:19 pm UTC

I always thought it was a hat, too.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:56 pm UTC

Banana science! Sort of.

Behold a slightly-green banana, wrapped in plastic film and kept in the fridge for 5-6 days (since Monday). The skin went brown a few days ago.
Spoiler:
Banana1.png

The centre of the banana wasn't bruised, which sometimes happens to wrapped-and-unrefrigerated versions.
Spoiler:
Banana2.png

It was firm and still tasted slightly green. Result: skin went to hell, flesh was kept in stasis.

I'm not really keen on the idea of keeping a dozen wrapped bananas in the fridge for a few months to see how long it takes for the fruit to start degrading. Someone else can do that.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Thesh » Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:45 am UTC

I tink you are missing three bananas: refrigerated without wrap, and non-refrigerated, with and without wrap.

You are a horrible person.

I would attempt to science this myself, but it wouldn't make sense unless I had a good banana bread recipe.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:58 pm UTC

I've done non-refrigerated with wrap (6 days to mush) and without (3 days to mush). I'm not really in the mood to put an unwrapped banana in the fridge.
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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby p1t1o » Wed Jun 24, 2015 2:30 pm UTC

I have in fact, once, slipped on a banana peel. I couldn't believe it.

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby Derek » Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:59 pm UTC

poxic wrote:I've done non-refrigerated with wrap (6 days to mush) and without (3 days to mush). I'm not really in the mood to put an unwrapped banana in the fridge.

How the hell did you get a banana to turn into mush in three days? I buy bananas at the grocery store on Monday, leave them sitting on the counter, and can't eat them until Friday at the soonest (they're good to eat basically from Friday to Monday, if bought on the previous Monday).

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Re: Are these banana myths true?

Postby poxic » Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:20 pm UTC

They're pretty much all yellow when I buy them, maybe a tinge of green in places. That might make a difference.
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