Friday, September 2, 2011

Going Bananas

Some swear that banana peels will remove warts. Others will tell you that the best thing for mosquito bites is rubbing the bites with the inside of a banana skin to reduce swelling and irritation. In his research, Brazilian chemist Gustavo Castro discovered that chopped and dried banana peels will remove lead and copper from industrially polluted river water just as well as typical filtering materials like silica and carbon. Unfortunately, the slippery skins do nothing to remove bacteria from the water.


The origin of bananas has been traced back to the Malaysian jungles of Southeast Asia, but probably were first domesticated in New Guinea. There is mention of banana cultivation in early historical records, one of the first going back to Alexander the Great’s conquest of India in 327 BC, where he first encountered the fruit. Bananas were officially introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, where single bananas were wrapped in foil and sold for ten cents. Victorian scruples of the time led many to declare eating the suggestively shaped fruit uncouth. Before the Centennial Exhibition bananas came to America on the decks of sailing ships, with sailors bringing home a few stems after traveling in the Caribbean.


Bananas are now the world’s most popular fruit, easily number one in the US where Americans eat more of them than apples and oranges combined, and where the average American eats over twenty-eight pounds of bananas a year. Little mystery there since they are inexpensive, easily peeled, sweet and delicious, plus packing four times the protein of an apple, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the amount of other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium, making it one of the best value foods around.


The banana plant is the largest of the herbaceous flowering plants, a giant herb of the same family as lilies, orchids and palms and the largest plant on earth without a woody stem. Bananas are a perennial crop grown and harvested year-round. The plant doesn’t grow from a seed but rather from a rhizome or bulb, each fleshy bulb sprouting new shoots year after year.


Commercially, India is by far the largest producer of bananas, followed by the Philippines, China and Ecuador. The US, specifically Hawaii produces a very small amount next to these top four countries, and is not even close to any of the top ten. There are over 500 varieties of banana in the world, with the most popular probably being the Cavendish, the variety we most often encounter in supermarkets. The fruit is picked and shipped (exported) green and after arriving in the country of destination is placed in special rooms to ripen. The rooms are airtight and filled with ethylene gas to induce ripening. The vivid and appealing yellow of supermarket bananas is a fortunate side effect of the artificial ripening process.


The Indian recipe below is tasty sounding dish, especially for anyone whose tastebuds are stirred by a combination of banana and coconut.


MALPOA: — Sampa Ghosh

1 ripe banana

1 tablespoon shredded coconut

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

2 teaspoons sugar (more if needed)

pinch of salt

vegetable oil


PREPARATION:

Peel the banana, mash well and set it aside. In a large bowl combine the flour, banana, milk, salt, fennel seed, sugar and coconut. Mix well making sure the batter is smooth.

Heat about an inch and a half of oil in a deep frying pan. Take a small spoonful of batter and pour it into the oil. You can fry 3-4 at the same time. Fry on medium heat for a few minutes then slowly turn the malpoas over and fry until golden brown on both sides.

Tip: The consistency of the batter should not be too liquid. A little more flour will make a thicker batter. It should be of a pouring consistency.



3 comments:

  1. So I got this image in my head of you sitting in a chair musing about what to blog about and your eye happened upon a bunch of bananas in a bowl. True or not let me tell you two things: (1) interesting facts on the suggestively shaped fruit and (2) you can have my average of 28 pounds a year.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America