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Jan 31, 2012 06:39 AM

Is there such a thing as a "bad" banana; or to put it another way, is there such a thing as a "really good" banana?

Isn't just about every banana about equally good (or bad) as every other banana?

If you like your banana a bit raw (or "crunchy" if you will), then you eat them when they're still greenish-yellow, or just pale green.

If you like your banana a bit softer or more ripe, then you eat them when their yellow, or perhaps even when they're a bit brown.

Aside from that variation -- which is more a function of time than quality per se -- aren't all bananas just about as good as any other banana?

Can we say the same thing about any other fruit? Not apples, oranges, berries (any kind), peaches, pears, etc.

Am I missing something?

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  1. It's completely subjective, Ipse: according to personal taste. To me the best banana is one that's not fully yellow, just a titch of green at either end, but not crunchy. On the other hand, my uncle who grew up on the Lower East Side and bought bananas off pushcarts, needs his banana to be completly black before he'll touch it. Uggh.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      Agreed. But like I said above, whether a banana is green or brown is more a function of time than anything having to do with the quality of the banana itself.

      In other words, the *same* banana can be either green or brown and that quality by itself is not determinative of whether that particular banana is good or bad.

      Or put another way, the question isn't whether you like your bananas green or brown, but regardless of whether you like them brown or green, aren't all bananas basically the same?

      1. re: ipsedixit

        No. I like really good bananas, and hate the bad ones- and I've no idea how to tell one from the other, some are just wonderful and some are completely gross. The little burro bananas are almost always good if you can get them, but I disagree that supermarket bananas are always bad, I just don't know how to tell the good ones from the bad ones. I guess that living in the southern US may be a good start- shorter distance from the source? Maybe not.

    2. I'll add a proviso. Every American grocery store banana is as good as any other. And they are generally bland and tasteless. When you get away from Dole, etc, there are lots of delicious variations on bananas all over the world, and they are generally much more tasty (and not picked and shipped months in advance) than what we get here! I had some tiny ones in India called an "apple banana" and they were wonderful, and did have a kind of apple-like background flavor. We are really missing out on how good bananas can be!

      3 Replies
      1. re: arashall

        Totally agree.

        My question should be limited to bananas at most US markets.

        Bananas in Taiwan were like sucking on a lollipop. It even smelled fantastic.


        1. re: arashall

          I agree, though with a bit of poking it's possible to find some of that variety in bananas in the area where I live. While the Cavendish is still the main one available, I'll occasionally find the small Red bananas. I'm not sure I've ever found the small yellows here though. Both of the latter I like better than the Cavendish b/c of the texture.

          Does anyone here remember the Gros Michel bananas of the 1950s and early 1960s? I'm too young to have tried one, but I wonder how different they are from the Cavendish in terms of taste and texture.

          1. re: arashall

            yes, we get apple banana's in the grocery store in Hawaii and they are very different than the the American standard banana. Those are remarkably consistent, somewhere there is an old thread by the late Sam Fujisaka about the good, bad, and dangerous aspects of that consistency (no genetic diversity at all.)

          2. Isn't the typical yellow US banana the same as every other US yellow banana genetically?


            That said, I have found variations in texture and creaminess in same-ripeness bananas. And also flavor, now that I think of it: I've had some bananas with fainter overall flavor (again, not age-related).

            1 Reply
            1. re: DuchessNukem

              One time I bought organic bananas because they were the same price as regular and they were way better than the usual ones. I almost think they were a regular brand like Dole, just organic. I enjoyed every bite; it was a revelation. But the 29 cents a lb ones I usually buy on sale do all taste the same, year in and year out, no matter what the brand. Think I'll look around a little, now that you reminded me.

            2. I've wondered the same thing. Even with the much maligned red delicious apple, a good one off the tree can be delicious. But bananas seem almost factory produced, no variation.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                Finger bananas can be marvelous. I'm lucky to live in a place w/ a large Mexican population, and we have supermarket bananas, plantains, finger nanas, etc. because they demand it.

                1. re: mamachef

                  I love finger bananas and the size but I mean the traditional banana you see in grocery stores. I have never had one of those and thought, "Wow, what a great banana" as I do with other fruits, even run of the mill grocery store ones.

              2. They're closer to being the same **at the commercial level** -- but absolutely not at the small-producer or backyard level.

                There are hundreds of cultivars of bananas, and they each have their own flavor profile and texture.

                I used to have a small stand of bananas in my yard in Florida -- they were so sweet and creamy my niece called them "ice cream bananas" -- and yes, they tasted like banana ice cream.

                I'd trade them for the varieties that others grew, like apple bananas mentioned above.

                There's a lot to be said for tree-ripened fruit, rather than mass-produced, gassed varieties, too.

                5 Replies
                1. re: sunshine842

                  I wonder why heirloom bananas haven't become popular, like other produce.

                  1. re: chowser

                    because they're hard to grow anywhere but about a zone 10 -- they need 24 months without frost to bear fruit -- even in Florida that's not a given every year.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Another problem is that a lot of the older bananas are still fertile, and hence still produce seeds. And before you say "so what" many bananas (incuding the fertile version of the Cavendish) have seeds that are the size of the end of your thumb, and as hard as a rock. wild bananas actually have to be bitten into very carefully,unless you want broken teeth.
                      BTW a Chinese supermarket near me sells apple bananas.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    "There's a lot to be said for tree-ripened fruit, rather than mass-produced, gassed varieties, too."

                    This is what I was thinking when I saw the thread. I always assumed a banana was a banana until I ate ripe, just-picked fruit in the Caribbean. They have quite a bit more flavor than the usual North American store-bought stuff.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I had forgotten how well bananas grow in SE Florida... like a weed. You've really got to keep them under control.