Bananas ripen in stages, and each stage is good for something. In spite of the common concept that bananas are best eaten raw, there are plenty of other uses for this wonderful fruit.
If a banana is yellow with some green along the seams, it’s not quite ripe. The meat is harder than the truly ripe stage, and has less flavor.
An all-yellow banana, most especially those that have turned a more golden color, are at the stage a lot of people refer to as “perfect” for just peeling and eating. The flavor is richer than the green banana, and more mellow.
Dark patches or spots on a banana are a signal to some that a banana is almost ready to ‘go’. The meat looks just like as it does in the all-yellow skinned banana. This is still a good eating stage, or for slicing and frying up like a plantain.
Then there’s that stage where the stem is shriveled and black, and the banana is slightly smaller with most of the skin gone dark. This stage of the banana is often just disposed of, but that’s a mistake.
The most flavorful banana stage is actually after the skin has turned mostly dark, or “blackened”. It’s very soft, like room temperature butter and easy to mix without turning chunky. It’s great in cookies, breads, cakes, custards, and other recipes calling for raw banana. It is at it’s sweetest and still adds nutrients and fiber to your cooking.
The blackened stage may be peeled and frozen, whole or premashed, for use later.
Bananas can also take the place of oil in some recipes. Two medium bananas may be substituted for oil in most cake or cookie mixes, boxed or scratch.