Anyone who’s ever watched a banana go from perfectly ripe to banana-bread-ready-brown in what seems like a matter of hours knows exactly how precarious the lifespan of the fruit can be. That’s why those at Top Banana — the largest vendors of Dole bananas in the Northeast — have developed a complex system for ripening bananas from all over the world to perfection.
“The produce industry is not the most technologically advanced, says Daniel Barabino, head of Top Banana’s strategy and operations. “We had a custom system for decades that worked great, but didn’t work as good as it could, so we made a huge investment in our internal software,” he says, explaining the temperature controlled rooms where bananas get moved throughout the ripening process, during which a fluctuation of even half a degree can make a difference.
A typical day at Top Banana starts at 5 a.m., when trucks unload hundreds of boxes of bananas from all over the world. A few bananas from each truck are punctured with a pulp thermometer to check their internal temperature, then hauled off into temperature and pressure-controlled rooms. These rooms are then pumped with ethylene gas — the same gas emitted from fruit as they begin to ripen — to begin a uniformed ripening process.
Once they’re ripe, they’re kept in a room with the ideal temperature of 58 degrees. The fruit is then examined, and sent out to grocery stores, for home delivery, and restaurants like NYC’s Magnolia Bakery, which uses about 30 cases of bananas every day to make the spot’s famous banana pudding.