I was raised by parents who grew up during the Depression. “Waste not, want not,” and “use it up, wear it out, make it do” were the rules at my house. As such, I’ve come to regard the wasting of food as something to be avoided at all costs. I’ve concocted some pretty amazing dishes from drips and drabs of leftover meats, starches (potatoes, pasta or rice) and weary-looking vegetables, held together with the basics – olive oil and spices, and maybe a grating of cheese.
So when the caregiver we have for my mother-in-law informed me of her banana overload, I naturally said yes. Her son works in the produce department for a local grocery store and the employees are allowed to take home produce that is past its peak. Good idea; again – I can’t bear the thought of good food being tossed out. This was on a Friday; by the time Monday rolled around for her next visit, I’d completely forgotten about it. That is, until she handed me a large plastic bag full of these dark and glistening curved objects.
Oh. My. God.
Yep – she had FROZEN the bananas! She doesn’t cook much, and I guess she didn’t know the rule that you don’t ever refrigerate or freeze bananas with their peels still on. I stared at the bag on my counter. Some of the bananas had already started to thaw. The clock was ticking.
I counted – 21 bananas. TWENTY-ONE! My go-to banana bread recipe uses only two bananas, and I didn’t have the time nor the right number of foil pans to make 10 breads. I ran my hand over the pile of bananas in the bag. The thawed ones were becoming very mushy. Whatever remained at the end of the day would have to be thrown away, there was no getting around it. I thumped my head – THINK! It would have been easier to deal with them if they hadn’t been frozen …. wait a minute! The freezer!
I rummaged through my stack of containers and selected three of the right size, then chose a dozen of the bananas and began to peel. It was interesting, to say the least. The peels were disintegrating and I had to be sure to pull all the fibers off the fruit itself, which had started to take on a brownish hue. They did not look very good at all. All it took was a sample bite to convince me to keep going – it tasted like a creamy banana pudding. Yum! These suckers were worth saving.
I proceeded to whirl up the 12 bananas in the blender, four at a time, and divided the puree among the three containers. Into the freezer they went; nine more bananas remained. Another six were whirled up in the blender and poured into a container that went into the fridge – that would be for smoothies for the next couple of days. Finally, I adjusted my banana bread recipe to account for the third banana (ha!) and baked two lovely banana breads. Whew! All saved!
Do you know what happens to banana puree in the fridge? The same thing that happens to a banana in the freezer – it turns DARK BROWN. Seriously, when I got the tub of puree out of the fridge the next day, it looked exactly like a rich beef gravy. Hmm. Once again, all it took was a taste to convince me that color aside, this was delicious, fresh-tasting banana puree. I stirred it up (most of the dark color was on top) and made a wonderful smoothie. I finished it Wednesday.
I guess I know why companies that make banana-flavored items favor the use of artificial banana – that color was a bit off-putting at first. I’m looking forward to thawing out the tubs of puree that are in the freezer for future breads and smoothies.
So the next time you’re looking at a pile of bananas turning chocolate brown before your eyes, just peel ’em and blenderize ’em!