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Posted on Aug 4, 2008 | 30 comments

Banana carrier & microwave ripening

Banana carrier & microwave ripening

Carrying case for banana (closed)

No, this isn’t a toy gun or someone who’s happy to see you. It’s a cheap banana carrier that’s designed to carry a single banana in your bag without bruising.

Carrying case for banana (open)I’d love to pack bananas more often as an after-school snack for my son, but I’m so rough with my bag that they tend to get mangled when I throw them in unprotected. The problem is solved with a US$1.50 case from the Daiso discount store in Daly City, CA (branches internationally), where it’s cheaper than similar products I’ve seen like the Banana Guard or the Banana Bunker. (Read on for the full review and my test results from ripening bananas in the microwave.)

As I discussed in my earlier post about miniature fruit, packing whole fruit during hot weather is safer from a food safety standpoint than cut fruit. This doesn’t stop me from throwing in an occasional decorative banana wedge dipped in citrus juice to keep the fruit from browning, but it doesn’t tend to get very hot in San Francisco and I try to use an insulated lunch bag with ice pack when packing highly perishable food.

Carrying case for banana (open)The hard plastic case has little ventilation holes and opens up to reveal a long cavity that’s shaped to accommodate both straight and curved bananas (shown at right). It’s a little larger than I expected, but the length is what allows it to hold differently shaped bananas. I haven’t had a problem getting it into a messenger bag, but it would be too large for a small kinchaku lunch bag. You can get a feeling for the size of the case from this demo video on BentoTV.

My only complaint is that it’s difficult for my three-year-old to open by himself, so I won’t be sending this to school with him until he gets more proficient with it. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t pack a whole banana with his lunch at this age anyway as his appetite is still small. So by the time he can open the case by himself he might have a bigger appetite.

SIMILAR PRODUCTS: The Banana Guard comes in different colors, and is priced at CAN$6.99 for one, plus $14.95 shipping to the U.S. (CAN$21.94 total) that takes about 4-6 weeks to arrive. They sell a lot of these in Japan, and offer international shipping. The company also has small and medium-sized round “Froot Guards” for packing delicate fruit like peaches or nectarines. Check out this Instructable how-to on making your own banana holster with a Banana Guard!

Banana Bunker: Be careful about clicking on this link at work, as it looks more suggestive than it really is! It’s a smaller flexible case in different colors that’s open at both ends. Priced at US$4.99 for one plus $8.55 shipping to the U.S. (US$13.54 total), the company offers international shipping.

If there’s no Daiso near you, you might try an eBay search for “banana guard” or “banana case”

, but beware of overpriced sellers. (Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this post.) Do you have a trick for protecting delicate fruit whole? Share it with us in comments!

Shielding a green banana for microwave Microwave-ripened banana comparison

RIPENING A BANANA IN THE MICROWAVE: I ran across an intriguing banana ripening tip in a Japanese-language cookbook and Barbara Kafka’s Microwave Gourmet, and decided to test it out. Microwave Gourmet gives a qualified recommendation for warming an unripe banana for one minute in a medium-power (500-600W) microwave oven, using aluminum foil to shield both ends from over-warming (shown above). (EDIT:  Kafka writes that the limited use of aluminum foil to shield part of the food works because microwaves can’t pass through metal, but cautions that metal pots and ceramics decorated with gold or other metals shouldn’t be put in the microwave oven. “A lot of metal may create an arc, or flash of light, in the oven; this won’t kill your oven, but it is unpleasantly dramatic.”)

To test this method out, I tried warming somewhat unripe (but mostly yellow) bananas in my 1200W microwave at 50% power for one minute, and at 100% power for 30 seconds. I also tried microwaving some really green unripe bananas.

RESULTS: I wouldn’t use the microwave technique for bananas to eat plain, out of hand. Even the best ones still retained some unpleasant texture. I’d reserve this technique for ripening only slightly green bananas for purees or baking.

The really green unripe bananas never got edible for me, even after increasing the power level and time in the microwave. Faring better were the slightly unripe bananas, with the one heated at 50% power for one minute (shown in the upper left of the cross-section photo) coming out softer, more flavorful, and less black than the other. The banana warmed at 100% power in my 1200W microwave came out black in the middle (shown above) and retained more of that unpleasantly raw mouthfeel of green bananas.

The skins of all of the bananas blackened in spots when warmed in the microwave, another reason why a microwave-ripened banana would be less appealing for eating out of hand. It’s a handy trick for when I’m baking banana bread or banana muffins and don’t have quite enough overripe bananas in the freezer, though!

FURTHER READING: 

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  1. I love those banana things, well I love everything foodish that you can toss in a backpack. As for the microwave. It died a coughing death. As luck would have it, it probably committed suicide ;).

  2. Wah… you can put tin foil in the microwave now? Growing up, that was the number one no-no on the list – NOTHING metallic in the microwave. I accidentally once put in a stick of butter still in its wrapper (which was paper lined, but metallic outside – parkay, anyone?) and it caught fire. Nothing that wasn’t contained immediately, but it did spark blue first, then catch fire.

  3. @2 Yvo, you can in some micros. My aunt has one you can in. I believe its those that has a grilling element etc.

  4. In MY old microwave, which is dead now, you couldn’t put my new (and microwaveable plates) that had a gold decor on them, in the microwave to nuke something, it would sparkle. But then the micro is dead now, it was from when I started undergrad… goodness gracious, it was 12 years old. Maybe it just retired rather than killed itself ;)

  5. My micro would sparkle if foil was used in it, I like green bananas anyways. I could see Husband useing a banana holder as a toy at work, I would not trust him with it, and he is 25. LOL Men.

  6. @6 Katie, and then all the guy jokes flying!!! Oh that would be fun! As a cautionary measure, with some men, avoid kiwis from the get go (no I will not go into it, either it’s obvious because you are with someone with THAT humour or you are not) or you’ll end up contemplating starving them to death :)

  7. @2 from Yvo: Ah, I should have explained more about the foil in the microwave — I was surprised by that as well. I’ve added the following edit to the post above:

    Kafka writes that the limited use of aluminum foil to shield part of the food works because microwaves can’t pass through metal, but cautions that metal pots and ceramics decorated with gold or other metals shouldn’t be put in the microwave oven. “A lot of metal may create an arc, or flash of light, in the oven; this won’t kill your oven, but it is unpleasantly dramatic.”

    Hope this clarifies!

  8. @4 from Melanie @ NotebookLearning: Ah, I should have clarified about the foil in the microwave. I added the following edit to the post:

    Kafka writes that the limited use of aluminum foil to shield part of the food works because microwaves can’t pass through metal, but cautions that metal pots and ceramics decorated with gold or other metals shouldn’t be put in the microwave oven. “A lot of metal may create an arc, or flash of light, in the oven; this won’t kill your oven, but it is unpleasantly dramatic.”

    I put the foil-shielded bananas in my regular microwave oven briefly without sparking.

  9. @5 from Jessika: Yes, metallic-coated plates and metal pots are a no-no in the microwave, as are some plates with all-over blue or orange-red glazes (often metal-based).

  10. Oh if I lived near one of those stores. Those are funny, just not $15 funny. I have a couple of friends that always take fresh bananas to work that endlessly use the whole “is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me” line and could use a banana keeper.

    Guess we don’t need cheap banana carriers in Texas.

  11. @12 from SlvrBllt: Yeah, exactly. Price is why I never bothered to get one prior to seeing them cheap at Daiso. $1.50 is the right price for a fun single-purpose container like this.

  12. @12 SlvrBllt, @13 Biggie, you can keep them in a regular box to keep from bruising too. Like a bento basically ;)
    (sorry for hogging the commentaries but I’m not feeling great so need something to keep my mind off things)

  13. Are batteries included? :o)

    (I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!)

  14. Thanks for banana tote tip, I’m planning on making my virgin Daiso visit this week as I’m on the west coast (Vancouver BC) and can’t wait.

  15. What a nice simple practical and useful idea. I love it. Good find!

  16. Whoa! I clicked to your website this morning (I visit regularly) and thought “OH NO! Biggie’s site has been hijacked by some adult industry hacker!” But then I scrolled down and saw it was a banana gadget. Whew!

    (Perhaps this speaks more to my frame of mind than anything else though. Must ponder…..)

  17. Microwaving bananas?? What a scary scary idea. No offence but is it so hard to give the bananas a couple of days? I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon.

    @2 – I was told the same thing about putting metallic things in the microwave oven. When I was a kid, my mom and I accidently put the butter and wrapper in the microwave and there was a small fire. We watched it happen so no harm was done.

  18. so does the FLAVOR change but not the texture as much, making it good for purees etc.? interesting…

  19. This is the sexiest post I’ve ever read here.

    That’s what your friends thought. Imagine the teachers’ reactions when your child yanks that banana keeper out of their lunch box/bag. Under today’s zero tolerance policies, expulsion may be in order.

  20. @23 from Chad Edward: Remember that Bug goes to a Japanese immersion preschool, though, and banana cases are popular in Japan. The Japanese moms at the playground were curious that they were available locally at Daiso, but not much reaction beyond that. Guess they’re not as dirty-minded as my friends!

  21. Regarding the foil in microwave ovens . . . years ago I mistakenly made a fudge pie in a store-bought graham cracker crust in an aluminum pie tin in the microwave, forgetting the famous no-no about not putting anything metallic in. Well, it worked fine, and all these many years later, I still make that pie in there, still in the aluminum pan, and have never once experienced so much as a single spark. Just as an aside, it’s a delicious pie, people rave about it, and often ask for the recipe. They are always shocked when I tell them that I made it in the microwave in the aluminum pan.

  22. @26 from KittyPants: Ooh, banana cases as practical/dirty gifts? I love it! At $1.50, they could almost be party favors (at a twisted party)…

  23. @28 from Lisa: This was the first time I’d put aluminum foil in the microwave oven as I’d heard that strict “no-metal rule” as well. Barbara Kafka is such a microwave cooking authority that she gave me the courage to try it, though — no problem. Interesting about the pie in the aluminum pie plate; I’d think that would be too much metal and would cause sparking. Huh! Who’d've thunk?

  24. Biggie do you know if I could order one from J-List? I’ve checked the Daiso website and sent them a query about stores in Oz and there aren’t any and there are no plans to put any here despite that we have huge number of Asian Autralians!

  25. This really gets into me. Specially the ripening of the banana using the microwave. Cool stuff going on here. thanks for the share.

  26. LoL I’m sorry, but how can you not make sexual innuendos?

    Can i put my banana in your lunch box?

  27. @31 from Cherie: I don’t see any banana cases on J-List, but you never know. You could always shoot them a note and ask them to stock the cases. The more expensive banana cases (Banana Guard, Banana Bunker) do ship internationally, though.

  28. @33 from Mr What what in the butt: Only if it’s edible. ;-)

  29. As a former Factory Service Rep for AMANA (the original RadarRange) as long as there is sufficient load of normal food or water, SMALL amounts of metal have ALWAYS been okay. When the amount metal exceeds the load then you could have arcing

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