A red banana is a banana with a distinctive red to purple skin, rather than the more conventional yellow. These bananas originate in Costa Rica, where they are extremely popular, and they are widely eaten in other parts of Central America. Many large markets also carry red bananas, to cater to Central American populations or people who want to get experimental with their bananas. Some people claim that the flavor of red bananas is superior to that of the Cavendish, the classic yellow banana carried in most stores which stock produce.
The skin of a red banana may be anywhere from dark red to almost purple, and the flesh is cream to slightly pink in color. These bananas are plumper and smaller than Cavendish bananas, with a sweet, creamy flavor. Sometimes, there may be a hint of a berry taste in a red banana, and these bananas are also very aromatic.
Ideally, red bananas should be eaten when they are soft, but not mushy. In the store, consumers should look for an even-colored, dark skin which shows no signs of cracks, pits, discoloration, or mold. If the bananas are not perfectly ripe, they will ripen in a few days at room temperature, and refrigeration is generally not advised for red bananas, because it can make them extremely mushy. A red banana will also emit ethylene gas, so people should be careful about storing these bananas next to other fruits, as the gas hastens ripening.
Like their yellow cousins, red bananas can be eaten plain, sliced into fruit salads, included in baked goods, dried to make banana chips, or fried as a side dish. These bananas make an excellent snack food, being high in potassium; for people who sometimes suffer from muscle cramps, adding more bananas (of any color) to the diet can help reduce cramping after exercise or stress.
People who want to grow a red banana bush can do so if they live in a tropical to semi-tropical area, roughly between USDA zones eight and 11. Bananas also have very interesting foliage which can make them nice ornamentals in addition to fruit producers; it generally takes around nine months for a banana bush to mature and produce fruit. Well-drained soil, full sun, and protection from the wind are critical for a banana bush. Once the fruit matures, the bush should be lopped back to the ground, allowing a new bush to grow and produce fruit.