Happy Banana Bread Day! (February 23rd)

Homemade banana cake

Happy National Banana Bread Day!

(PCM) Bananas are one of America’s favorite fruits: according to the USDA we consume roughly ten pounds per person per day. They’re delicious, nutritious, kid-friendly and easy to transport; just toss one in a lunchbox or tote and you’ve got a ready-to-eat snack, complete with its own packaging.

The trouble with bananas is once they turn, they lose their appeal (a-peel?) ripe right quick. An estimated 1.4 million bananas end up in the world’s trash uneaten every day. This ranks them as one of the most wasted foods on earth. Wastefulness is clearly a slippery slope.

Just because a banana is bruised and brown doesn’t mean there’s no turning black back. There are many, many (dare we say bunches) of uses for overripe bananas; indeed, the ripening process breaks down starch and increases the sugar (hence sweetness) within, enhancing that deep banana flavor that we so love. Most banana-based beverages, dishes, and desserts are made better with super-ripe fruit, including one we celebrate today with gusto: banana bread.

For many people, banana bread is an ideal comfort food. Sweet, soft, and awesome fresh-out of the oven or days old, banana bread has been an American go-to treat for over a century, and for good reason. As our grandmothers discovered in the harsh days of the depression, banana bread is a cheap and easy way to make use of even the mushiest bananas: waste not, want not!

Banana bread is a “quick bread”: it uses leavening agents like baking soda and/or baking powder instead of yeast. Everyone has their favorite take on banana bread (With or without nuts? Chocolate chips? Sour cream, heavy cream, or mascarpone?), but the basic recipe is pretty standard: mix first wet (bananas, dairy, eggs, etc.) and then dry ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.) in separate bowls, combine them into an even batter, add embellishments (if so inclined – I like mine naked), pour into loaf pans, and bake until golden.

Here are some quick-bread quick tips to make the most of your Banana Bread Day:

  •  Not sure if your loaf is ready to come out? Insert a toothpick in the middle. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done!
  • Fresh cooked loaves of banana bread make great gifts for holidays, homecomings, new parents, etc, while sliced banana bread (individually wrapped) are great for baked sales or pot luck events.
  • Short on cooking time? Divide your batter into two separate loaf pans. The resulting breads will cook and cool faster. Smaller loaves are also ideal for smaller hands and restricted diets (half the calories!).
  • No time to cook today? No worries! Toss overripe bananas into a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for future use. They thaw quickly – leave them in a bowl on the counter for a few hours or submerge in a sealed plastic bag in warm water for a few minutes. They may look scary when they come out (seriously – the peels will turn black and the fruit will squish out like something from a science fiction monster movie), but they are truly flavor gold.

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