Banana History

The true origins of the world’s most popular fruit are to be found in the region of Malaysia. By way of curious visitors, bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE. In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana, an usual fruit he saw growing on tall trees. He is even credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese masses until the 20th century.

Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 CE Islamic warriors traveled into Africa and were actively engaged in the slave trade. Along with the thriving business in slave trading, the Arabs were successful in trading ivory along with abundant crops of bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. By 1402 Portuguese sailors discovered the tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary lslands with their first banana plantations. Continuing the banana’s travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo from the Canary Islands in the year 1516. It wasn’t long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean as well as Central America. Arabian slave traders are credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa as well as Southeast Asia were not the eight-to-twelve-inch giants that have become familiar in the U.S. supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man’s finger. Ergo the name banan, Arabic for finger.


Banana Sauce

Remove the skin of three or four bananas; press them through a sieve. To a cup of this puree, add a half cup of sugar and the juice of a half or a whole lemon. Cook until boiling throughout, stirring often. Cool, then add a teaspoon of vanilla. Yield: 3-4 servings sauce.

Bananas Flambe

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add 1 teaspoon lime juice, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and stir until the sugar is melted. Add 2 bananas, sliced thickly. Cook for a few minutes until the bananas are soft around the edges. (if the bananas are really ripe, this will only take a minute). Add a quarter cup of dark rum and stir thoroughly. Remove from heat and take to the table quickly. Light with a match. Warning, if you don’t have much headroom on your boat, try the flambe bit in the cockpit. Sailorgirl is not responsible if you set your headliner on fire.

Bananas with French Toast

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 slices bread
4-6 bananas

Beat eggs slightly, add milk, sugar and vanilla. Dip slices of bread in this mixture and fry until golden brown in butter or marjarine. Slice bananas and pile on each piece of fried bread. Serve at once with maple syrup.

Or skip the sliced bananas and use the Banana Sauce.

Banana Gingersnap Pudding

1/3 cup sugar
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups low-fat milk
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons dark rum
4 medium bananas, sliced
12 gingersnaps or ginger crisps

Stir in rum. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes longer until custard thickens. Serve warm or chilled.

Conventional method: Mix sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan; stir in milk. Cook, over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil. Whisk some of hot milk mixture into beaten egg; return to saucepan. Stir in the rum. Bring to boiling, cook 1 minute, the custard will thicken. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Slice a layer of bananas into each of 4 individual dessert dishes. Add a layer of cookies and top with another layer of bananas. Pour custard over top bananas.

Don’t have gingersnaps? Try graham crackers, or chocolate chip cookies. Heck, try whatever you’re trying to use up.

Don’t forget the Elvis special, a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich!

Try adding mashed bananas to your favourite pancake recipe.

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