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Bananas in Japan [moved from Banana board]

  • E Eto Apr 2, 2013 04:38 AM
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I'm seriously happy that there's a Bananas board because when I go to the supermarket here in Japan, I always wonder what the differences are in the 5-8 varieties of bananas in the produce/fruit section. There's always the regular "cheapie" bananas that cost around 98-128 yen (roughly $1.00-1.40) for a bunch of 4-5 (typically the Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte brand from the Philippines); then there are the varieties that go up from there, up to 400-500 yen for a bunch, usually packed a little more carefully. I've found the good middle-brow brand called Sumifuru that I can find on sale for 100 yen, but usually cost up to 200 yen for a bunch. The main difference I've found between these Sumifuru and the "cheapies" are that they keep their firmness and flavor well past the spotty brown mature stage. The cheapies become pasty and fall apart easily when past their primes.

I've experimented with the more "premium" bananas from Dole or Chiquita, but they just seem to be the same bananas as their cheapies, except maybe they are the "select" bunches handled with a little more care for the picky Japanese market. They still tasted better than their cheapie counterparts though.

Then there are the bananas that are packed for convenience stores (7-11, Family Mart, Lawsons), that are most likely some of the same brands as I've already mentioned, just packaged for these shops. But they seem to be in better shape then those in the supermarkets. I usually buy them at convenience stores only when I'm on my way to a sports event where I know I'll need the potassium during my downtime. But they still seem to taste better than the cheapie bananas that I now tend to avoid.

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  1. By the way, I'm totally serious.

    1 Reply
    1. re: E Eto

      Now that the brief April 1 life of CH's beloved Bananas board has come to a close, I invite you to release your inner cheesemonger and take a look at the new Cheese Board.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/91

    2. I used to like the little sweet ones that were labeled "monkey bananas" in Katakana. Have you seen them?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Silverjay

        I'm not sure I've seen those. I'll look out for them.

        I forgot to mention that the variety I'm talking about is only at the supermarkets. Going to a mid- or higher-end fruit shop seem to offer more choices, probably not in variety, but in quality.

      2. I agree, the mid-range bananas seem to be firmer and stay that way longer but I prefer the cheapies as they are usually small. The nicer ones tend to be too big to eat in one go.

        My Japanese banana pet peeve is that they are sold already ripe. Much easier to damage on the way home than green bananas, and the bunch will probably go bad before I can finish them. I want to buy my bananas green!

        8 Replies
        1. re: BlueLotus

          Its the same with most fruit. I live in an area famed for peaches, and on 2 occasions I splurged on the costly $10 a peach one, and both times even though I went directly home and was careful, they were bruised and the skin scuffed up. Extremely annoying. Strawberries too, they are always so ripe and if you sneeze and they touch each other its game over.

          1. re: TeRReT

            Yup. But some fruit, including strawberries, don't ripen after picking so there's not much to be done. Mushed up strawberries are annoying but the same thing happens to the local berries where I'm from in Canada. And I'll take soft, easily bruised local berries over rock-hard California imports any day!

          2. re: BlueLotus

            I'd recommend getting a Banana Guard (http://www.bananaguard.com/products ) to safely transport each of your bananas from the market. The same company also seems to make other individual plastic fruit protection devices.

            1. re: Robb S

              What, buy several banana guards, bring them on each shopping trip, separate a bunch of bananas at the store, and package them in the guards? Too much work! I'd rather just deal with the bruises (by complaining here, of course). Besides, my banana hanger only works for bunches:)

            2. re: BlueLotus

              I'm not sure where you're buying your bananas, but I seem to be able to find bananas that are fairly green.

              1. re: E Eto

                I'm buying my bananas in suburban Tokyo. I've never seen green bananas at any of the markets in my area, except at Obon of course. My MIL in Osaka reports frustration at the same thing, and when I first heard that I was all excited.

                "So you also hate it when you buy perfectly good bananas at the store only to find them bruised when you get home?"

                "No, I just like to eat them green."

                She also keeps her bananas in the fridge. Yuck to both.

                1. re: BlueLotus

                  How's this for green? Seen at my local market as I was shopping this evening.

                   
                  1. re: E Eto

                    So should I go take pictures of the yellow bananas at my local market? :)

                    I can sometimes find bananas like that (still not green enough to prevent bruising on the way home, would really like totally green bananas like I can find back in Toronto) but not often. Maybe there are regional difference in banana preference at work here?