Whenever I bring home bananas from the grocery store they seem to turn from green to brown and mushy overnight. Though I can always bake banana bread—overripe bananas are a gift—I do want to enjoy perfectly ripe bananas over a few days.
As a banana ripens, it gets sweeter, softer, more aromatic, and browner. That discoloration isn’t a sign that the fruit’s gone bad. It’s a natural part of the ripening process, and the browner, generally the riper and sweeter the fruit. Find out how to store your bananas so that they stay perfectly speckled, sweet, and not mushy for longer.
3 Tips for Storing Bananas
The best way to keep your bananas fresh for as long as possible? Buy them when they’re still a little green then follow these three tips:
1. Keep Bananas Out of the Fruit Bowl
Fruits like apples, pears, avocados, and peaches release ethylene as they ripen, which will cause the bananas to ripen faster. That is why you should keep them out of the fruit bowl if you don’t want them to ripen too quickly.
2. Store Bananas in a Cool and Dark Place
According to Dole, the ideal storage temperature is 54°F. Any cooler, your bananas will stop ripening and the peel will turn black. Any warmer, your bananas will ripen rapidly—that’s why a warm kitchen isn’t the ideal place to store your bananas. Also, keep them away from direct sunlight.
3. Open Air Is Better Than an Enclosed Container
Don’t store bananas in a bag or an enclosed container—that’ll only hasten the ripening process. It’s best to store bananas in the open air, ideally hung so that they don’t bruise. This happens when the bananas lay on top of each other.
The Refrigerator Will Stop the Bananas From Ripening
The first and maybe only rule that you need to know when it comes to storing bananas: avoid the fridge, especially before they’re ripe. Bananas are tropical fruits, and, in general, tropical fruits don’t handle cold storage well.
Placing an unripe banana in the fridge will stall the fruit’s ability to ripen, the peel will turn black, and according to the experts at Chiquita Bananas, “they may not be able to resume the ripening process even if they are returned to room temperature.” Also, put an already brown banana into the fridge and it’ll turn mushy faster.
How Ripe Is Too Ripe?
If you refrigerate your bananas, the time to do it is when it’s got some brown speckles, indicating the starch has turned to sugar. As Harold McGee explains in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, “Once a fruit is ripe, it can be refrigerated with relatively little discoloration of the flesh,” though he notes, “the peel will still turn black.”
Those black bananas are still usable, even if they look very very dark Christina Tosi of Milk Bar even swears by using them to make banana cream pie. As she wrote for Lucky Peach, her secret “to getting the most banana flavor is using bananas that are ripe to the point of being completely black and mushy. You can’t be scared of a banana at this stage. I’m not going to lie; they’re a little bit funky, but they’re the ideal bananas for pie.”
A version of this article originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.