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Red bananas are relatives of the more common yellow Cavendish banana, and are also called red dacca bananas. These relatively small bananas have strong, sweet flavor with a “fruity” overtone, and are eaten raw or used in baked and stewed dishes. The best red bananas are dark in color, without cracks, dark spots, or mushiness, while the fruit inside the peel should be off-white with a tinge of pink. Raw fruit can be eaten at any stage of ripeness, but firm bananas work better for cooking purposes. You can store these bananas much like ordinary yellow ones, ripening them at room temperature for several days.
The red banana is also marketed as the red dacca banana, claret banana, or red Cavendish banana. Some marketers name this fruit after places where it is grown, and may call it the Cuban red Cavendish or the Jamaican red banana. Despite these names, red bananas are grown throughout Asia, Central and South America, with Costa Rican bananas being common.
These brightly-colored bananas are smaller than most North American supermarket varieties, at only about 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 cm) long. They have a strong banana flavor that persists even after cooking, and have overtones of raspberry or mango. They can be used in breads, stewed as a dessert, or fried. Red bananas also do well raw when eaten plain or in fruit salads.
The best red-skinned bananas have smooth, unblemished peels with minimal spotting or bruising. Avoid red bananas that have uneven dark spots, a mushy feel, or cracks and holes in the peel, as well as any banana that is completely black or that has a moldy stem. When peeled, good specimens contain opaque, off-white fruit with a light pink or orange tint and no mushy or translucent spots.
These bananas darken as they ripen, with unripe bananas sporting a light red peel and ripe bananas turning a very dark purple purple color. Less-ripe specimens may be more visually appealing, but usually have an astringent taste when eaten raw. When choosing red bananas for cooking, look for firm specimens with a medium to dark red peel. Bananas for baking or smoothies may be slightly mushy without impairing the final product, however.
Refrigeration allows these bananas to keep longer, but can spoil the flavor. Whenever possible, buy red bananas slightly less ripe than you prefer them, then allow them to ripen at room temperature. Keep bananas away from other fruits, such as apples and pears, as the gas that bananas produce while ripening can cause other fruit to spoil.