The Wide, Wide World of Bananas


My sister hates the banana and I just don’t get it. Seriously, how could you not like the one fruit that is always in season, convenient to tote, inexpensive, easily digested and extremely versatile? The average American consumes approximately 27 pounds of bananas a year and I, for one, love them.

The popular fruit is a good source of fiber, ranks low on the GI index scale and has only about 100 calories per serving (75 percent of that being water). Shoot, their high potassium levels alone, make them a ‘must have’ for anyone who cares about heart function, electrolyte balance and blood pressure.

You might be surprised to learn that most of us banana lovers don’t really know the banana anywhere near as well as we think. We know the Cavendish, a fine banana in its own right, but there are over 1000 other varieties that vary in size, shape, taste and texture.

There are green striped bananas, purple skinned bananas, little bitty bananas the size of your fingers and bananas that don’t look like bananas at all. The Blue Java or Ice Cream Banana, a blue skinned variety, tastes like a scoop of vanilla custard, the Red Banana has a soft pink flesh reminiscent of sweet berries. And the Manzano, which isn’t consumed until it turns very black, tastes citrusy, floral and bright.

Or so I am told.

The majority of these bananas are tough to find. Sometimes it takes a plane ticket and a passport to hunt down the more exotic types, but others can be found at your local specialty markets.

I recently ran across the Burro Banana. Short with square edges, this variety is soft on the outside, dry in the middle and tastes of lemons; and if I make a short jaunt across town I’ll be able to get my hands on a Hawm Tong, one of the thirty or so varieties grown in Thailand.

I’ll admit, I’ve become a little obsessed with my favorite fruit and am now on a mission to find as many as I can. Surely one of them will change my sister’s mind!

Did you know the banana was so worldly? How many types have you tried? —Karen


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