Shoppers hunger for red bananas

22:58, Jun 14 2013
Mark Walker
EXTRA EXOTIC: Browne St Countdown store manager Mark Walker tastes a new product to the supermarket, a red banana from Ecuador.

What's this - red bananas?

Countdown supermarkets throughout the country started stocking the fruit about six weeks ago, adding a colourful flourish to the standard sea of yellow in the banana section.

Yellow bananas sell for about $2.99 a kilogram while the flaming red variety from Ecuador - known as claret, Jamaican or red Cavendish bananas - are abou ta dollar more.

Grown in Central America, Mexico and parts of Australia, the red-skinned banana remains white inside.

Timaru Countdown store manager Mark Walker said the fruit was selling quite well. "They taste sweeter," he said.

Timaru Produce Wholesalers managing director Gavin Charteris said the common yellow bananas imported to New Zealand arrived green.


They were then gassed with a diluted mixture of ethylene to change the colour to yellow.

But it is not just bananas that come in a variety of hues.

Mr Charteris said silverbeet can be yellow or red as well as standard green and the coloured versions were used in restaurants as garnish.

"People are just used to vegetables being a certain colour; they don't know what to do with a purple cauli. They don't know what it is."

He thought the colouring, related to the seed breed, was often just a gimmick.

"A restaurant may promote a ‘jubilee of vegetables', but they all taste the same," Mr Charteris said.

Carrots can grow purple, yellow or white naturally. Juice Products NZ processes locally grown orange, yellow and purple carrots for export at its Washdyke factory.

Twenty per cent of the company's plantings are coloured other than orange, because of demand.

Juice Products co-director Damian Honiss said his firm grew them to the size of a wine bottle and did not care about how they looked.

"They are not pretty carrots, they are gnarly. But they're not for the table so they are not for the eye," he said.

Each shade had a different combination of vitamins and minerals which consumers were now seeking out for specific health benefits.

The Timaru Herald