Bananas must be transported over long distances from the tropics to world markets. To obtain maximum shelf life, harvest comes before the fruit is mature. The fruit requires careful handling, rapid transport to ports, cooling, and refrigerated shipping. The goal is to prevent the bananas from producing their natural ripening agent, ethylene. This technology allows storage and transport for 3–4 weeks at 13 °C (55 °F).
On arrival, bananas are held at about 17 °C (63 °F) and treated with a low concentration of ethylene. After a few days, the fruit begins to ripen and is distributed for final sale. Unripe bananas can not be held in home refrigerators because they suffer from the cold. Ripe bananas can be held for a few days at home. They can be stored indefinitely frozen, then eaten like an ice pop or cooked as a banana mush.
Recent studies have suggested that carbon dioxide (which bananas produce) and ethylene absorbents extend fruit life even at high temperatures.This effect can be exploited by packing the fruit in a polyethylene bag and including an ethylene absorbent, e.g., potassium permanganate, on an inert carrier.
The bag is then sealed with a band or string. This treatment has been shown to more than double lifespans up to 3–4 weeks without the need for refrigeration.