Bashful bananas

June 8, 2017

I have to tell you, bananas are not my favorite fruit…sorry.  It’s not the flavor…they’re sweet, so that’s good, right. It was purely a texture thing; they’re too soft or gushy, as I called them as a kid.


So ignore my food foibles and discover the benefits these beauties bring to your wellness for yourself. Bananas are said to be one of the most sensually delicious fruits and a powerhouse of nutrition. They cannot be ignored.  


The fruit of the banana tree, a gigantic herbaceous plant belonging to the orchid and lily family, the banana is believed to have originated in Malaysia. The first records of its existence date back to the 5th and 6th centuries in India, but the banana is thought to be as much as a million years old. For a long time, the fragility of this fruit limited its distribution. In fact, it was not until the 20th century, when preservation and transportation methods were improved that it became more widely available. 


Grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates, the main producers of this fruit are India, Brazil, the Philippines, Ecuador and Indonesia. Bananas develop on a large flower spike after its clusters of purplish flowers have blossomed. Each plant produces only one bunch of fruit, after which it dries out and is replaced by new shoots. It takes almost a year before the bananas are ready to be picked, growing in bunches of 10-25 fruits, called ‘hands.’


There are three distinct species of bananas…sweet, plantains and inedible. While there are a number of sweet bananas to choose from, the most common is the yellow skinned variety we all know and love. Bananas are usually harvested while still green and are actually sweeter when allowed to ripen fully off the tree.


When buying bananas, the degree of ripeness is shown by the color of the peel. When fully ripe, yellow bananas have a slightly lustrous skin with some tiny black or brown spots, with no green left on the skin.  Reddish bananas’ skin will darken slightly as they ripen. Overly ripe bananas, which are soft and browning, are best for banana bread or muffins.


Because bananas discolor rapidly upon contact with air, it is best to peel them at the last minute, but if this is not possible, simply sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to prevent oxidizing. 


Bananas are a rich source of vitamin C and B6, folic acid, riboflavin and magnesium, but are most famous for their concentrated amounts of potassium, essential to us on hot, sweaty summer days.


Most commonly eaten fresh, bananas can be used in a variety of ways…baked, steamed, sautéed, fried, in pies, puddings, custards or flambéed. They are wonderful in cakes and muffins and of course, the classic…banana bread.