New type of veggie? Green bananas hit Japan store shelves

New type of veggie? Green bananas hit Japan store shelves

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New type of veggie? Green bananas hit Japan store shelves

Green bananas sold by Dole Japan Inc., center, are seen at a supermarket in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward on Sept. 12, 2023. (Mainichi/Ayane Matsuyama)

A major fruit company is selling not-yet-ripe green bananas at Japan supermarkets, proposing their use like a vegetable in curries and miso soup.

Bananas in Japan are imported while still green, then ripened before being placed on store shelves. Previously, the green ones Tokyo-based Dole Japan Inc. has been selling since the end of August would have been discarded by producers on account of damage, their size or other reasons.

Green bananas differ from yellow ones in taste and the way they are eaten. They are prepared for eating by cutting off both ends, soaking them in water, wrapping in plastic wrap, microwaving for 2 to 3 minutes, then removing their peels. They are not as sweet or aromatic as yellow bananas, and have a texture similar to that of potatoes. Over time, they gradually ripen and become sweeter, becoming edible as-is.

Dole produces 500,000 metric tons of bananas annually in the Philippines, a major producer. Of this, 20,000 tons of “off-spec product” green bananas are disposed of in local landfills. To solve this issue, the company launched the “Mottainai Banana” project in 2021, aiming for zero waste by 2025. It has been working with other businesses to utilize these bananas in processed foods such as juice and puree, but its goal has not yet been achieved. Looking to expand consumption further, Dole decided to sell green bananas in Japan, noting they are eaten like vegetables in the regions where they are grown.

Shingo Wakatsuki, a buyer for Aeon Market, operator of the Peacock Store supermarket chain, said, “It is important for stores to offer environmentally conscious products. We would like to create a framework to sell out green bananas as a new product.”

Akiko Naruse of Dole’s marketing department commented, “Bananas are the most eaten fruit in Japan. We hope people will grasp the new value of this familiar food.”

Green bananas are around the same price as yellow ones. They are currently available at Dole’s official online store and about 120 supermarkets and other stores nationwide, while the company plans to gradually expand the number of places where they can be purchased.