Dad’s banana plantation
The summer my kids and I visited dad’s banana plantation it was laden with large hanging banana clusters. At that time Mom and Dad lived in Laie, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. Their home, a 5-minute walk to the local beach, was set on a piece of property with a back yard stretching deep behind the house. By day, dad inspired students in his university classes. After hours he planted and nurtured his plantation begining with 3 burgeoning into 80 banana ‘trees’ in the back yard. By the time I made my way from New York to the island for a visit, they were thriving with rich magenta hearts bending down to the weight of large hanging clusters.
My kids and I, all pre-schoolers at the time, were surprised to discover that bananas grew curved upward, not down, in very large clusters. The bananas were lined up like dancers in circular tiers with 15 or more in each row. Ripening from the top down the highest were creamy yellow, the middle tiers were yellow-green and at the bottom of the cluster, bright green. We call a clump of bananas a bunch. Dad, in teaching mode, broke off a ‘hand’ of ripe bananas (half dozen or so connected) and gave each grandchild a ‘finger’ (one banana), explaining the terms. Vine ripened bananas taste sweet and full of flavor you can’t get from the shelf-ripened kind. There’s nothing like peeling a yellow banana from the ‘top’ down, using the stem end for a handle, and eating to your heart’s content while standing in a banana plantation. Wow!!
‘Banana Split’ Trivia
Did you know that you don’t need a knife to split a banana lengthwise. Bananas have three lengthwise sections that naturally pull apart like the sections of a tangerine. Pull the peel completely off and gently push on one end of the fruit. It will give way to three even long sections without using a knife. Make a ‘triple’ banana split with 3 long strips in the boat. To see a cross section, slice a banana into disks and you can see the three star-like divisions.
Bananas are kid food
Bananas are one of the best toddler foods. They are naturally sweet, soft and easy for kids to eat on their own. I’d slice bananas right on the high chair tray for dessert after dinner to the bright-eyed delight of my son Brig. When our family lived in Japan we could easily buy the mini boutique bananas. Known as Ladyfinger, Nino or Finger bananas, my favorite variety tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a banana. Their sweeter than full size bananas, have a thinner skin so they’re easier to peel and about half the size of regular ones. They’re the perfect portion for kids.
On every trip to the Philippines I always run into Banana Ketchup. A ubiquitous condiment used on all kinds of dishes, it’s sweeter than tomato ketchup. Made with mashed banana, sugar, vinegar, and spices, it’s sort of brownish but often dyed red to resemble tomato ketchup.
Right after eating a sweet fresh banana, my favorite way to use them is baked in banana bread, cake or cupcakes. If you don’t eat your bananas fast enough they continue to ripen and sweeten. I’ve been known to over buy to ensure a few become ripe enough for baking. The skins develop brown cheetah-type spots and eventually go completely black. Somewhere in the middle when you have lots of ‘cheetah’ spots, make them into your favorite baked bread or cake. If you don’t have time right now, put the overripe bananas in the freezer, skin off, and defrost then bake on another day.
Love those bananas!!
All about bananas: stories, trivia, ‘nice-to-knows’.