Ice cream that spends more time on your cone and less time dripping down your fingers is closer to becoming a reality, thanks to researchers at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Colombia and the University of Guelph in Canada. According to findings presented by the team of scientists at the 255th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, fibers harvested from leftover banana plants could be the key to thicker, slower-melting ice cream.
The researchers started out investigating potential uses for banana plants that have already borne fruit. Banana fruit stems, or rachis, are usually treated as waste, but they contain tiny fibers that can change the consistency of foods. When mixed with ice cream, researchers found that these fibers, called cellulose nanofibrils or CNF, create a product that melts at a much slower rate than conventional ice cream. The addition of CNF also extends the ice cream's shelf life and makes it more stable when subjected to changing temperatures.
"The fibers could lead to the development of a thicker and more palatable dessert, which would take longer to melt," researcher Robin Zuluaga Gallego said in a press statement. "This would allow for a more relaxing and enjoyable experience with the food, especially in warm weather."
Ice cream made with banana plant fibers offers another benefit: The plant material adds creaminess and body to the mixture, potentially replacing some of the fat that ice cream typically relies on for its texture.
These scientists aren't the first innovators to make progress on the non-melting ice cream front. Researchers in Japan made a similar concoction using polyphenol liquid extracted from strawberries, and astronaut ice cream, though definitely not creamy, avoids the melting problem through freeze-drying.