For those of us old enough to remember the dark days of the internet, the banana holds a special place in meme history. That’s because, back in the early aughts, a viral video started circulating with a message that couldn’t be ignored: the humble yellow fruit, it claimed, was “The Atheist’s Nightmare.”
In the bizarre minute or so of theological discussion, quite a few justifications for that were made – most of which could be debunked by just looking at a wild banana instead of a store-bought one. However, there was one point in particular that must have made food scientists and vegan chefs the world over scoff: the idea that the banana comes with its own biodegradable wrapper.
“The peel of a banana makes up about 35% of the ripe fruit and is often discarded rather than consumed,” notes Healthline. However, "banana peels are not only edible but also rich in several key nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fats, and essential amino acids.”
Yet, unless you’re particularly adventurous with your fruit habits, you’re probably still not too keen on chowing down on this Mario Kart debuff. That makes sense: in its raw form, it’s fibrous, tough, and just not that nice to eat. But what if you didn’t even know it was there?
One paper, published earlier this year in the American Chemical Society’s Food Science & Technology journal, found a neat solution: put it into the flour. And like all the best experiments, they investigated using cookies.
In a reversal of the usual procedure, the team behind this study took ripe, undamaged bananas, peeled them, and discarded the fruit itself in favor of the skins. These were then blanched, dried, and ground into a fine powder, which was mixed in various ratios with regular wheat flour, skimmed milk powder, powdered sugar, and vegetable oil – all the ingredients for five batches of delicious sugar cookies.
The results weren’t perfect. Too high a ratio of banana flour, and the cookies were deemed to be noticeably harder and browner than usual – likely a result of all the increased fiber present in the skins. A lower ratio, though – 7.5 percent banana peel flour to 92.5 percent wheat flour – was deemed by a trained cookie-tasting panel to have the best texture and highest overall acceptability compared to the other batches. Even better, the longevity of the goodies was not impacted, lasting just as long as the traditional recipe versions at room temperature.
It’s a small addition overall, but at a time when so many of us are trying to reduce waste and increase health, it makes a big difference. If cookies can be enriched like this, without impacting their consumer acceptance or shelf life, the researchers believe the addition of a bit of banana peel flour could make the tasty treats more nutritious.
Which really just leaves one question: how exactly do you get a job on a cookie-tasting panel, anyway?