Edible from green to very, very ripe, each stage of the banana has something yummy to offer.
Texture and flavor: very firm, starchy with little flavor or sweetness
Uses: cooked in stews and curries, or fried as a substitute in a recipe that calls for plaintains
Color: greenish-yellow with green stem
Texture and flavor: firm with mild flavor
Uses: raw, or cooked in stews and curries; mashed and fried as fritters; sautéed for desserts
Color: totally yellow
Texture and flavor: tender, but holds shape; delicate, sweet flavor and aroma
Uses: raw in fruit salads, flambéed or sautéed for desserts
Color: yellow and mottled with brown flecks
Texture and flavor: very tender and sweet with pronounced banana flavor and aroma
Uses: raw in fruit salads and smoothies, flambéed or sautéed in desserts and breads
Color: large brown spots to completely brown
Texture and flavor: very soft and almost sticky; strong flavor and aroma
Uses: mashed into milkshakes, breads, cakes, pancake batter, and smoothies
To speed up ripening: Put them in a paper sack with an apple. Apples produce ethylene gas that ripens fruit.
To slow down ripening: Put them in the refrigerator. The skins will still darken, but the fruit will stay firm a few extra days.
Too many ripe bananas? Freeze them. The skins will turn black, but no worries: That helps protect the fruit from freezer burn. Or you can peel and cut bananas into thick slices, and then freeze on a cookie sheet in a thin layer; once they're solid, store them in a zip-top plastic bag. Either way, their texture becomes too soft after thawing to eat them raw, but they're delicious mashed and used in recipes.