Depending on ripeness, bananas range in color from shades of almost hunter green flecked with whispers of yellow, all the way to deep canary yellow speckled with pinpricks of brown. Where a banana falls on this green-to-yellow range holds the key to where this banana will travel next on its circuitous journey from farm to produce aisle.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes a numbered color index that conveys quick-glance standardization to help produce buyers make decisions. Depending on whether the case of bananas in question looks like a No. 2 or a No. 5 will determine the exact amount of time the bananas will spend in a ripening room, benefiting from specific temperature controls and piped-in ethylene gas that helps ripening progress smoothly.
After close monitoring in the ripening room confirms that the fruit is the perfect golden yellow color, the fruit is transported to the store. At the store, the bananas are tucked into merchandising displays. Only now can the produce team sit back and wait to discover if the bananas pass the final, most difficult desirability test: Will the ripe fruit catch a shopper’s eye?