Whether as a snack on its own or in a peanut butter sandwich, fruit salad or bread, bananas are a staple in the American diet. Even most young children know in order to eat the banana, you first have to peel it. Then, most people toss the banana peel in the trash or compost bin. Maybe because so many Americans toss out the peel without a second thought, some people mistakenly believe banana peels are toxic.
Peels and Pesticides
Most banana peels contain some pesticide residue. Pesticides are chemicals farmers and growers use to kill insects and other pests. However, the United States Department of Agriculture sets pesticide limits for safety and most fruits do not exceed these limits. Touching a banana peel that contains pesticide residue does not put you in harm. If you do not like the idea of pesticides on your fruit and vegetables, you can buy organic. Organic farmers use far fewer pesticides, and some organic farmers do not use pesticides at all.
Removing the Pesticides
After peeling, you can safely throw out the banana peel. You do not need to wash it as you do fruit with edible skins, such as apples or pears, nor do you need to wash your hands after handling a banana peel, as you should with raw meat. Washing, is however, a proficient way to rid pesticide residue from your fruits and vegetables. A 1990 report in the EPA Journal by three agency chemists, Joel Garbus, Susan Hummel and Stephanie Willet, showed that washing tomatoes removed over 99 percent of the pesticide residue.
Eating the Peels
In the American diet, banana peels are generally considered inedible, but that is because of taste and consistency, not because the peels are actually toxic. In some cultures, people cook the peels or grate the peels to use as ingredient in recipes, similar to how people grate orange and lemon peels for extra flavoring zest, especially in baked goods and frostings. Often, farmers feed pigs banana peels, and a 1999 study on Sustainable Technology Development in Animal Agriculture presented at Deutscher Tropentag in Berlin cited that banana peels can make good feed for pigs because the peels have a high energy content, but are low in protein and amino acid composition.
Other Peel Uses
Sine banana peels are not toxic, you can reuse them in a number of ways to reduce waste in landfills. Instead of using toxic shoe polish, shine your shoes with a banana peel. Add the banana peels in your soil to help your garden grow. Rubbing a banana peel on a big bite may help relieve the itch, and the oil may work as a pain reliever for burns and scratches. In 2009, researchers at Nottingham University even found a way to turn banana peels into briquettes for cooking, lighting and heating. In March 2011, scientists published a report in the journal “Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research,” showing that minced banana peels work better than many other purification materials to purify drinking water contaminated with potentially toxic metals.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food -- Does Washing Fresh Produce Eliminate Pesticide Residues from Food?
- Purdue University Department of Horticulture & Landscape Arcitecture; "In Fruits of Warm Climates"; Banana; Julia F. Morton; 1987
- Deutscher Tropentag 1999 in Berlin Session: Sustainable Technology Development in Animal AgricultureThe Nutritive Value of Banana Peel (Musa sapieutum L.) in Growing Pigs; Tinnagon Tartrakoon, et al.; 1999
- Re-Nest; 7 Ways to Reuse a Bannaa Peel; Rachel Wray; September 2009
- BBC News; Going Bananas for Energy in Africa; Matt McGrath