Red Bananas*

Is There Any Difference Between Red Bananas And Yellow Bananas?


When you first lay your eyes upon a bunch of red bananas, your initial thought might be that what you are looking at is simply a bunch of overly ripe yellow bananas. So ripe in fact that the outer peel has turned from black to a purplish-red color. You might also notice that these bananas seem to be a little more plump than usual. If you press on one with a finger, you’d find it to be quite firm, and almost hard to the touch, and not soft or squishy at all. Usually, if you press down on a banana that’s as overripe as these look, your finger would go all the way to the peel on the opposite side.


What you’re looking at isn’t a bunch of yellow bananas that have for some reason turned red or purple, but a bunch of red bananas. After a lifetime of seeing bananas that are either yellow, or yellow-green, if they’re not quite ripe, you might suppose you’ve stumbled across a rare banana indeed. There’s nothing really rare about red bananas. It’s simply that they haven’t been heavily marketed, at least not in North America. Here in the United States we usually only see a single type of banana, or two or three types at the most, so we’ve come to believe that all bananas look pretty much the same, and all are yellow, except for this oddball banana that has a red peel.


There Are Many Different Types Of  Bananas


In truth, there are well over 1,000 different types of bananas in the world. With so many different types, it’s understandable that some will taste differently than others, and some will look quite different from others. As it so happens, while no two types are identical, there are usually more similarities than differences between the different types. Some species however do not produce edible fruit, and the   plant is grown mainly as an ornamental. Other species, like plantains, tend to be used more in cooking than eaten raw.


In any event, the vast majority of bananas you find in your neighborhood supermarket are Cavendish bananas. The other types you are most likely to encounter would be baby bananas, red bananas, and plantains. Most of the bananas sold in the United States are grown in Central and South America, but India is the world’s largest exporter of bananas. Most of  the red bananas you’ll find in the market place also come from Central and South America, although some are imported from Asia or the islands of the South Pacific.


Characteristics Of The Red Banana


As noted above, the red banana tends to be a bit plumper than its yellow cousin. The fruit is somewhat shorter as well. The red banana as a whole feels much more solid than the yellow banana, and in fact it is so. Whereas the flesh of the yellow banana has a creamy white color, that of the red banana has more of a pink, or salmon color.  The flavor is much like that of the yellow banana, though many say it is richer, and that it has just a hint of  raspberry flavor. One or two of these bananas can provide a hearty meal. The red banana is very rich in beta carotene, and it supplies more vitamin C than does the yellow banana. Like the yellow banana, the red banana is very rich in potassium. Both red and yellow bananas are widely used in cooking, but the red variety tends to be used more in cooking that eaten raw, perhaps due to the fact that its flesh is a bit more heavy or solid. The red banana can be dried to make chips, or it can be fried to make snacks.


Growing Red Banana Plants


If you live in a warmer climate (USDA Zone 8 and above) you can grow your own red banana plant. Banana plants or trees are easy to grow, and the vegetation is quite lush, but the plant will not tolerate frost, nor will it perform well at all if the temperature remains in the 40ºF range for any length of time. Red banana bushes tend to be much more sensitive to cold weather than Cavendish banana plants, or some of the ornamental banana species. The foliage however is considered to be more spectacular than is the case with most other species. Once a bush or tree has produced fruit, which can take up to 11 months, it can be cut back to the ground, since new fruit will not be produced on the previous growing season’s foliage. Just when fruit will first begin to appear is anyone’s guess. Banana plants seem to produce a new crop of fruit whenever they feel like it, which means if you have a plantation of red banana plants, you’ll likely have fruit ready for harvesting at all times of the year.


If you should come upon a bunch of red bananas during a future trip to the supermarket, give them a try. You probably won’t be disappointed. Just don’t let them get too ripe. If they do, they will turn mushy, just like a yellow banana will.