Bananas are the second most common tropical fruit consumed globally, with approximately 119.83 million tons produced worldwide, comprising 16% of world fruit production. But with a lot of consumption comes a lot of waste. Most of the waste produced from banana consumption comes from the peel, which makes up 30% to 40% of the weight, resulting in approximately 3.5 million tons of banana peel waste per year. Banana peel waste contains carbon-rich organic compounds that can take up to two years to decompose and biodegrade, creating odor and producing excessive emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute to climate change.
One of the reasons that bananas produce so much waste is due to the misconception that their peels are inedible and not useful. Banana peels are in fact delicious when prepared correctly, and even more importantly, they are healthy with a great deal of potential to be used as functional ingredients in food products.
The banana peel is rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron, essential amino acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and potassium. It is a good source of certain biogenic amines (catecholamines) including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which is crucial for mental health, nervous system functioning and blood pressure control. Banana peels also have antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-mutagenic, anti-diarrheal, anti-tumor and anti-ulcerogenic properties.
Keeping peels to consume as food, not only cuts down on waste and reduces GHG emissions but also increases the nutrient density of the entire fruit.
And people are catching on. According to food and beverage analytics company, Spoonshot, google searches for the term ‘peel as food’ have experienced significant growth in the last few years, with the number of hits tripling since 2015.
Here are some innovative ways that banana peels have found mass a-peal in food and drink preparations.
Grilled bananas with dark chocolate and citrus juice
Banana Business is a Dutch startup combating food waste by making food products made from banana peels, such as “pulled peel,” a plant-based alternative to pulled pork. Banana Business’ peels are processed in their secret spice mix and turned into tasty fillings for wraps, salads, and other dishes.
At Aya Comfort Food in Brazil, patrons can enjoy ‘Banana skin meat in the bread,’ a “banana peel bacon” made with banana peel, peppers, onions and tomatoes in a crunchy bread. And for breakfast, vegan chef, Day Radley whips up a mean baked beans, tofu scramble and banana skin bacon sarnie. In the Netherlands, Banana Business’ Pulled Peel is on the lunch menu at hotel/nature reserve, De Werelt, where it is served in a red beet wrap, with sweet and sour cucumber, onion and a herb dip.
Vegan chef, Day Radley’s baked beans, tofu scramble and banana skin bacon sarnie
Dope Dry Munchies in San Antonio Texas is a dehydrated fruit snacks retailer with a twist. Most of these fruit snacks, which include kiwis, strawberries, pears and pineapples, have the skin on them— including the bananas. And according to reviewers, they are delicious. Most commercial dried fruit also has sulphur dioxide or other preservatives on them— but not Dope Dry Munchies. That’s dope!
Dried bananas with the skin on by Dope Dry Munchies
William Grant & Sons’ Discarded Spirits in the UK uses ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. Its Banana Peel Rum is a fruity sweet Caribbean rum matured in whiskey casks, that has been infused with banana peels for two weeks. The banana peels originate from a flavor house that uses the fruit but would have otherwise disposed of the peels. The Banana Peel Rum recently won two categories in the 2020 World Beverage Innovation Awards 2020.
Discarded Banana Peel
With the wheat shortages of the past two years and the consequent increase in wheat prices that has been compounded by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, banana peel flour might just be the perfect alternative to wheat flour. A 2012 study found that bread made out of banana peel flour had a higher dietary fiber content than bread made of wholemeal flour. This can be used to make breads, pastas and desserts.
Green banana peel flour
At Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor Michigan, classic banana bread is baked with organic flour, real butter, fresh eggs, cane sugar, a touch of Madagascar vanilla and two super ripe bananas with the peels included.
Bakehouse Co-owner, Amy Emberling says that, “All of our loaves of banana bread are now made with unpeeled, fully ripened bananas. We were throwing away pounds of nutritious, flavorful food for no good reason. By questioning our assumed practices, we’ve stopped composting literally thousands of pounds of nutritious, flavorful peels.”
Tea made by boiling banana peels for 10-minutes provides all of the nutritional benefits of the peels without having to eat them. But what this tea is most popular for is its sleep inducing properties, due to magnesium and potassium which are muscle relaxants, and amino acid L-Tryptophan, which is converted into 5-HTP in the body, producing serotonin and melatonin— sleep-inducing hormones.
Banana peel tea made from organic banana peels
It is no surprise then, with so many delicious uses for banana peels, that they would become increasingly a-peeling to vegans. Famous chefs such as Lindsay-Jean Hard, author of cookbook Cooking with Scraps, Nadiya Hussain, winner of The Great British Bake Off who revealed that she uses “pulled” banana peels instead of pork to cut down on waste, and Nigella Lawson who demonstrated on her TV series, Cook, Eat, Repeat, how to make a curry with banana peels instead of throwing them away, have also helped to popularize the trend. Following the lead have been online publications such as The Guardian in the UK and The New York Times, as well as cooking sites that frequently post banana peel recipes.
So whether you are making a banana peel smoothie, banana peel chutney, banana peel bacon or banana peel curry, know that you are not just ridding the environment of dangerous waste, but you are providing your body with a healthy dose of nutrition.
And if you’re still not convinced, instead of throwing out the peels, try chopping them up and letting them soak in water to make vitamin water for houseplants, or use them in compost. Banana peels are also effective in a range of beauty treatments and can even be used to polish shoes! Banana peels have also proven to be effective in a number of industrial treatments that help to mitigate the climate impact of agriculture. We all have a role to play in reducing food waste by keeping this valuable resource out of the landfill.

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