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Red Bananas - Aren't they supposed to be good?

I bought some red bananas at the local international supermarket. They were a nice maroon color and simply labeled "Red Banana"

I was inspired to do this by a recent issue of Saveur in which red bananas are listed as their "favorite" banana to eat raw... sweet taste similar to a yellow banana.

Well, it didn't turn out well. The first day, I opened one up (with a knife, the skin was like armor) and took a bite. I expected something different, of course. But what I got was a bitter, astringent and INCREDIBLY dry/starchy experience... I mean this thing dried out my mouth, my tongue, my lips, everything felt like I had just eaten poison.

I thought, well, that was awful, but let me wait a few days and try them again, maybe they are not ripe. Pretty much the same experience (maybe a bit less starchy, but terrible flavor (almost no flavor, really) and that starchy, bitter feeling. No sweetness at all.

Are these things supposed to be like this?

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  1. I don't think you bought the right thing. There are countless banana varieties and I suspect that yours was an immature plantain of some sort. Given that it was an international market, the name may have been confused in translation. The red bananas that average supermarkets periodically sell are moister and sweeter than yellow bananas; some people describe the flavor as strawberry-banana. They have slightly thinner skins than ordinary bananas, and are usually 6-7 inches long, with less curve and a comparatively larger diameter than a yellow banana of the same length. The skin is reddish-brown when ripe, black being the equivalent of heavily-spotted in a yellow banana.

    3 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I think greygarious is right. It's amazing how many different varieties of banana there are.

      1. re: EWSflash

        Some years ago I saw, on The Victory Garden, I think, a feature on a farm in California (Santa Barbara area?) that grows many, many banana varieties. The descriptions were mouth-watering, and I am not that big a banana fan, save for the red ones. It's a pity that more varieties are not mass-market available. Living in New England, I was very envious.

      2. re: greygarious

        Sounds like you are right... it must have been a variety meant for cooking.

      3. I am dealing with a never-ripening bunch of red bananas myself (had them over two weeks now with no change). But everything I can find other than this thread indicate that the Costa Rican red bananas are meant to ripen and sweeten, they are not a starchy cooking variety. I bought them at a very average grocery store without a lot of exotic/"ethnic" foods.
        Was going to give up and toss 'em but found this thread from another site indicating they may ripen eventually... as in 2 months later. Anyone have any experience with these?

        1 Reply
        1. re: julesrules

          These finally ripened about a month after purchase. And not even all at the same time.. having avocados in the bowl with them seemed to help, the layer of bananas touching the avocados ripened first.
          The skin became a darker, brighter red with pink undertones and lost the slightly green speckling, it also thinned out. The flesh was not chalky at all.
          The flavour was fine and slightly different from Cavendish but not interesting enough for me to consider buying them a month in advance :)

        2. I think it's good for us to look into different varieties of bananas. It's not like we're going to have the Cavendish forever... Better luck next time, Tzakiel.

          1. Most of the red bananas I've seen around here are from Colombia although I've recently seen some from Mexico. I've never seen one as long as 6"; a few may have approached 5" but most are around 4" in length. The Mexican ones were not as good as the Colombian ones.

            Learning to judge when they're ripe is a process of trial and error that I'm slowly getting better at but I've thrown quite a few away that I peeled prematurely and were too chalky to eat. The skin is thicker on the red bananas that I get than on regular bananas; I practically need a knife even when they're lusciously creamy inside. The skins itself can get mottled and squeezable and the flesh inside still be chalky so I want until a couple of days after the skin becomes squeezable. Red bananas are my favorite banana for flavor

            1. I bought these as a lark last year at Whole Foods to try them out and since then have been buying them all the time. My two year old niece loves them too.
              They tend to take a while to ripen so leave them in a brown paper bag for a week and you will have ripe sweet bananas. Summer is the best time because they ripe faster. Personally I like the creamy, moist texture of these over the regulars. Just remember when buying select those that are long and plump and not too hard. Hope you have a better experience.

              For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_banana

              1. I just went throught the exact same thing! I went to local supermarket and thought I'd like to try these sweet bananas. Got them home and skin was tough, that I had to use a knife and peel like an apple. I was brave and tasted it and yes, I too, thought I had been poisoned! I couldn't get it out of my mouth fast enough and the taste...I literally had to wipe my mouth out with a wash cloth...blechk! So my question is, do I leave them ripen for a long time? Are they something else that should serve a different purpose? They were a little pricey, it is January in Wisconsin, maybe they are out of season? Or maybe just bad?

                1. I bet it was plantain. You don't eat that raw. I'm not a huge fan of it cooked, either, but have fried slices a couple times to go with asopao (seafood stew).

                  ETA: I just noticed that this was an old thread. Oh well.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scoyart

                    Thanks! I will look up some plantain recipes...the sticker in them says red bananas but maybe the store mis-labeled...?
                    I notice this was way old post, too but thanks for answering :-)

                  2. To test the bananas to see if they're ripe, we just peel back the stem to expose the tiniest portion of banana, then smell. You can usually tell that way if they're ripe or not rather than peeling the whole thing.

                    We have a variety of red bananas in Sri Lanka, too, but they're about, oh, 6-7 inches long usually. I tried them once, but don't like them as much as a local variety of bananas - 4" long and fat fat fat fingers - called kolikuttu in Sinhalese. Those are the best bananas I've ever had, but they're not, from what I can tell, exported from Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans eat them all. :D

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LMAshton

                      There were 4 in my bunch. I tossed one out, so I have 3 left. I think I'll save a couple to see if they ripen and treat the other as if it's a plantain. Sri Lankan banana sound delicious! I have some weird fruit/pollen allergies and bananas are one of the few fruits I can eat without any reactions. I eat a lot of bananas.

                    2. I bought mine yesterday from Chinatown. They're Dole, from Ecuador, labelled Reds #4236.

                      I had the same experience you did (though I did not suspect being poisoned).

                      I was frying some bacon, so I crisped up the bits I'd spit out, and they tasted like fried plantains -- totally different (and completely edible) texture. So if you have this same variety, it must be a cooking banana.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: barefootwriter

                        I should have added that after about 3 weeks, I opened up another banana and it was much softer and had a sweeter smell. The inner core was a little hard yet, so I gave it another week. Tried another it tasted like how everyone describes them to taste, sweet and delicious. I was glad I waited, however, I'll just stick to regular yellow bananas because 4 weeks is just too long to plan for a snack, lol!