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Bananas

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A banana framed by bananas

A banana is a yellow-skinned edible berry that grows in warm, wet climates. Portuguese slavers brought us the word 'banana', which comes from the name of an Atlantic port in The Congo. Bananas must be peeled before eating, unless you're one of the less evolved species of simian, in which case you can get the banana out of the skin by squishing it. A banana tastes best when it's picked from the plant, already ripe. Some say the best way to consume a banana is in an alcoholic drink, although there are many other satisfactory ways, some of them almost as good as drinking. The average human eats 25 pounds of bananas a year, in banana splits, with peanut butter, in daiquiris, or just by themselves.

Where Do Bananas Come From?

Oddly enough, the banana is neither a fruit or a vegetable, but a member of the herb family - the Musacae, a cousin of the orchid. Bananas are probably native to tropical Asia, but are widely cultivated. Bananas don't grow on trees; the plants have a palm-like aspect and large leaves, the overlapping bases of which form a false trunk. Only female flowers develop into the banana fruit (botanically defined as a berry) with each plant bearing fruit only once. The seeds are sterile, so propagation takes place through shoots from the rhizomes (underground stems). With stalks 25 feet high, they're the largest plant on earth without a woody stem.

Different Kinds of Bananas

Bananas that are sold in the supermarket are either the Cavendish or the Ecuadorean dwarf variety. Babies, Manzano, Lady Fingers or Oritos received their name because they resemble a small child's hand, and they have a yellow-pinkish cast. Red bananas, also known as Makabu or Morado, taste sweet with a hint of tartness and turn purplish red when ripe.

Ripening your Banana

The bananas that are shipped to many parts of the world (from places such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, and Nicaragua) are picked green from the trees, and are kept from ripening until they reach the shops. As the banana ripens, all that mealy, squishy starch is supposed to turn into sugar. Unfortunately, if the bananas are refrigerated at any time between being picked and being eaten, they will not ripen properly. So don't stick them in the fridge. Imperfectly ripened bananas are composed of starch; but as the natural ripening proceeds, the saccharine material is converted into dextrin and glucose. The best thing to do is to get a paper bag and store them somewhere at room temperature. If you can, find a way to hang the bananas from a hook, you'll avoid bruising the bottoms. When they look ripe enough, stick them in a fridge (again, in a container that protects the bottoms). The skin will blacken, but the fruit will remain at the same ripeness.

So When Should I Eat This Banana?

  • Green (unripened bananas) - used in soups and stews, or cook the starchy, unripened fruit as you would do a potato as raw, unripened bananas can be irritating to your digestive system.

  • Yellow with green tips (partially ripe) - used for broiling, baking or frying.

  • All yellow (ripe) - eaten raw or in waffles, puddings, cakes or pies.

  • Yellow with brown freckles (full-ripe) - raw or in salad, fruit cup or other dishes calling for uncooked fruit.

  • All Brown (over ripe) - if flesh is firm, still in prime eating condition.

  • Blackened areas (bruised fruit) - should be avoided.

Banana Recipes

Banana Daiquiri

This recipe was supplied by Joe Robertson.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Banana
  • 1/2oz Heavy cream
  • 1oz Banana liqueur (See recipe below)
  • 1/2oz Lime juice
  • 1 1/2oz Light rum
  • 1/2 cup Crushed ice
  • 1 tablespoon triple sec

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until smooth.

  2. Pour into a sour, champagne or cocktail glass.

  3. Drink.

  4. Make loud, disgusting smacking sound with lips.

  5. Repeat from step 1.

Banana Liqueur

Ingredients

  • cup corn syrup
  • 3 cups vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium bananas

Method

  1. Mash peeled bananas and add to vodka, cooled sugar syrup, and vanilla extract.

  2. Shake gently and let sit for one week.

  3. Strain and filter.

  4. Let sit a little longer for additional flavouring, but may be used now.

  5. Serves 1.

Banana Donuts

Ingredients

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 3/4 cup mashed bananas (about 2 good-sized bananas)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour for rolling
  • Deep oil for frying

Method

  1. Sift flour, measure and resift three times with baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg.

  2. Cream shortening, blend in sugar, add vanilla, and eggs, and beat until light and fluffy.

  3. Add combined bananas and buttermilk, and stir until well mixed.

  4. Add flour mixture in 3 or 4 portions, stirring thoroughly after each addition.

  5. Chill before rolling.

  6. Remove 1/4 of dough from refrigerator at a time, knead it lightly four or five times, roll to 3/8 inch thickness, and cut with floured 2-1/2 inch doughnut cutter.

  7. Fry in deep oil heated to 375°F until golden brown, then lift out and drain on absorbent paper.

  8. If desired, the dough may be put in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for one to two days, to be fried as needed.

  9. Yields about 3-1/2 dozen donuts.

Cinnamon Fried Banana

Thanks to Mercia Balona of Gauteng, South Africa for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • A large, slightly green banana
  • 2 level tablespoons cinnamon and sugar (mixed)
  • Butter
  • Ice-cream or cream (if desired)

Method

  1. Slice the banana into equal slices length-wise.

  2. Fry the slices in a pan, on both sides, until each is slightly brown.

  3. Smother butter thinly on to the banana.

  4. Fry further for a few minutes.

  5. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on while they're being fried.

  6. When the butter has been thoroughly cooked in, serve with ice cream or cream.

Jamaica Banana Jam

Thanks to Elizabeth Barcelo of Kershaw, South Carolina, USA for this particular treat (if you like banana and peanut-butter sandwiches, you'll love this jam and peanut butter on a sandwich!).

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about one medium lime)
  • 3 1/2 cups diced firm ripe bananas
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Method

  1. Place lime juice in a one quart measure.

  2. Peel bananas and dice directly into lime juice.

  3. Stir with a wooden spoon.

  4. Keep stirring as you dice each banana into the lime juice to prevent darkening.

  5. Measure sugar and water into a wide 2 1/2 quart saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar as you bring the syrup to a boil.

  6. Cover tightly for the first two minutes (so the steam will wash sugar crystals from side of saucepan) then uncover.

  7. Add bananas (with lime) and boil over low heat for about 30 minutes or until thick.

  8. Stir often to prevent sticking, especially during the last 10 minutes.

  9. The jam is done when a spoon scraped across the bottom of the pan leaves a track that closes slowly, or when the jam mounds while stirring.

  10. Spoon at once into hot sterilised jars and seal.

  11. Do not use paraffin with this jam.

  12. Makes 4 Cups.

Mexican Bananas

Ingredients

  • 6 firm bananas
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 12 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk

Method

  1. Mix together spices and sugar.

  2. Peel bananas and cut in half lengthwise and brush with lemon juice.

  3. Place each banana half at the end of the tortilla and sprinkle with sugar mixture.

  4. Roll tortillas and again sprinkle the top with the sugar mixture after brushing the top and sides with evaporated milk.

  5. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes on a well greased cookie sheet.

  6. Remove from pan immediately and serve with hot fudge or chocolate sauce.


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