Banana is a green to yellow and purple to red fruit belonging to the genus musa. Usually, banana is a sweet and soft fruit and eaten after peeling the outer skin. Wild species of bananas have large and hard seeds while the fruit used for culinary purposes have small seeds. Banana dishes are usually served as desserts but in some regions like South India, green banana is used as a cooking ingredient. Banana chips, banana cake, banana split ice cream and banana pudding are some of the world famous banana dishes.
Discovery of Banana
Today, bananas are cultivated throughout the tropical regions but originally they are the natives of tropical regions of South East Asia. The first domestication of Banana was done in Papua, New Guinea. A long history of banana cultivation has been found in Africa also, after South East Asia. In America, bananas were introduced by sailor from Portugal in 1500s. Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines are also famous for some of the wild species of banana.
Culinary Uses of Banana
Though banana is mainly known for its fruit as a culinary ingredient its trunk, leaves and flower are also used for cooking purposes. The fruit is used in making various sweet and savory dishes such as cakes, fruit salads, dips, desserts and baked dishes. People in tropical regions eat banana as the staple starch. The taste of banana varies from starchy to sweet and texture may be either firm or mushy. The preparation of banana dishes depends upon its taste and texture. Sweet banana is used in making desserts and other sweet dishes while firm and starchy banana is used to make chips, cutlets and curry dishes. Banana pulp is also widely used for preparing banana dishes. Deep-fried banana is a very popular dessert in South East Asia. Banana jams, pancakes and dried banana flour are also some of the popular banana recipes throughout the world. Banana flower and trunk are also widely used in South East Asian cuisine while making dips, soups and curries. Many dishes are cooked wrapped in banana leaves and it provides a subtle and sweet taste to the dish. Leaves also protect the food from burning.
Preferred Methods for Cooking Banana
Banana can be eaten raw or in cooked form. There are several ways by which banana dishes can be prepared.
Some of them are as follows:
• Baked – Bananas are baked with the skin in spilt bamboo. Baked banana makes a nice dessert.
• Deep-fried – Deep fried banana in batter is a common dish in South East Asia and in US it is known as banana fritters.
• Dehydrated – Sliced banana is dehydrated and fried to make banana chips that can be eaten as a snack. Plantain or green banana is used to make the chips.
• Dried – Banana is dried to make banana flour.
• Pureed – It is difficult to extract juice from banana but it is compressed or processed to make banana puree which is used in making desserts and cakes.
Cuisines Commonly Making Banana Dishes
Bananas are largely used by the South Asian cuisine. Both, sweet banana or plantain is used in making various banana dishes in the cuisine of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Deep-fried banana in batter is a very popular dish in the cuisine. Mashed plantains are used in making dips, jams and sauces. In the Burmese cuisine a very popular dish called ‘Mohinga’ is made with the tender core of the trunk of banana plant. Indian cuisine is also not far behind in using banana while cooking. Due to starchy and firm texture, boiled and mashed plantains are widely used to make kebabs and cutlets. South Indian dishes mainly consist of plantains. European and American cuisines also use sweet banana in making various desserts such as banana pudding, banana fritters and banana pancake.
Nutritive Value of Banana
Including banana in your diet is one sure way to a healthier body. A regular intake of banana dishes can be of great benefit to human body in various ways. Some health benefits provided by banana are as follows:
• Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium that help in maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function.
• Banana provides calcium that helps in building better bones.
• Bananas help to deal with both diarrhea and constipation.
Banana Consumption Criteria
Owing to its high nutritive value, banana is suitable for people of all age-groups. Growing kids should have plenty of bananas and banana dishes as it helps in building strong bones. Though it’s a healthy fruit, it contains high calories and carbohydrates due to which banana is not recommended for obese and diabetic people.
Buying and Storage of Banana
Banana is a tropical fruit and it is readily available throughout the year. While buying bananas it should be kept in mind that fruit should be clean and bruise free. Plump and sloppy banana is considered overripe and it should be avoided. Bananas can be stored in refrigerator or in room temperature until it gets ripe.
Types of Banana
There are 1000 types of banana found all over the world but broadly they are classified into two main categories:
• Dessert banana – It is sweet in taste with soft texture. Mainly used to make sweet dishes or eaten raw. Dessert banana usually has yellow skin. • Plantain – It is also known as ‘green banana’. Plantain has firm texture and starchy flesh. Ideal for mashing and using in dips and sauces.
Food and Drug Administration Approval for Banana
According to US FDA, Chiquita bananas are a good source of potassium and have low-sodium contents that make them a healthy food for people having high blood pressure and heart problems. Chiquita banana meets the criteria of FDA as a food containing health benefits.