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I've seen a few times the suggestion to wrap the stems of bananas to prevent them from ripening. Yet at least one person who was espousing this admitted it was based on a misreading of a study:

I made an incorrect leap of imagination about ethylene production and abscission, the natural splitting of leaf or fruit from stem. I re-read the Sauter paper and realized that I got a little too inferency. I thought that since ethylene caused abscission, it would make sense to cover the point prone to abscission. I didn't test when I saw confirmations from Lifehacker and eHow. (I know! Those were my sources after all the research I'd done?! I'm embarrassed for me, too.)

Is there any actual science behind this technique? Or is it just an old wives' tale?

To clarify: The question here isn't whether ethylene gas ripens bananas, that's a well known fact. This question is solely about wrapping the stem to prevent the banana's own gas from ripening it.

  • I would suspect that if it has an effect, it'd be more significant in packing boxes or other enclosed spaces. It may not be signficant if you already keep your bananas in a place with good airflow. – Joe Dec 10 '14 at 10:22
  • on a side note, wrapping would keep the tip of banana in nice condition. we've all had brown-mushy tops, no? – Pat Sommer Jan 2 '15 at 4:43
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Revised answer (old answer removed due to accidentally swerving off-topic and to some extent containing incorrect information)

Even though ethylene biosynthesis happens throughout the banana most-likely none of it occurs in the stem itself as it contains a small percentage of the metabolically active tissue. There aren't as many studies that focus on the stem of the banana specifically as I imagine it's not a very attractive topic, but the current-day findings that we have highly support the assumption of insignificant ethylene gas production (or none at all) in the banana stem and it's why wrapping it will pose virtually no difference in the further ripening of a banana.

Links to relevant studies: (1) (2) (3)

  • 1
    Great, can you link to some of those studies? I keep finding the claim that it's been studied but I can't find proof. – Yamikuronue Feb 23 '15 at 16:58
  • @Yamikuronue Please view my revised answer. By the way the reason you probably never came across any citations when looking at articles about this topic is because it's nothing controversial or new, instead it's a long known, well researched occurrence observed in all climacteric fruit. – dijkstra Feb 23 '15 at 17:27
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    Nobody's disputing that ethylene ripens bananas. The claim is that the tip of the stem is a significant enough source of ethylene that wrapping it tightly will prevent a banana from ripening. – Yamikuronue Feb 23 '15 at 17:50
  • @Yamikuronue I've revised the answer once again. It seems I've somehow completely gone off topic and based my answer on a skewed perception of your question. It ran pretty long and I assume my focus went fairly quickly this time, apologies. – dijkstra Feb 23 '15 at 18:22
  • Awesome, it's now exactly what I was looking for. Thanks :) – Yamikuronue Feb 23 '15 at 18:23
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First off, let's clarify this a bit. The claim is not that this prevents the bananas from ripening; it allegedly prolongs their freshness or slows the ripening process.

This video shows a test where unwrapped and wrapped bananas are left to ripen side-by-side. They find that they all ripen at the same rate - so the wrapping doesn't appear to help at all.

I've also tried this myself and found that the wrapped bananas seemed to be a bit more firm than the non wrapped. I wonder if Myth Busters did a segment on this? What do you think, I'd say this is BUSTED.

  • If the decrease in firmness is just from the moisture loss, not an issue w/ ripening, it'd explain your findings. And the video having the control group next to the experimental group was bad. – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 22:24

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