Native to tropical regions, a banana has a tough outer peel that may be yellow, red, green, or black when ripe. All varieties have a sweet fragrance when ripe and contain a soft creamy flesh inside that may be white, yellow or pinkish cream colored. There are hundreds of different varieties of bananas but there are several varieties more commonly available. The Cavendish banana is the most common. Other varieties include Baby (also known as Lady Finger or Nino), Blue Java ( also known as Ice Cream) Burro, Hua Moa (also known as Hawaiian), Manzano (also known as Apple), Plantain, and the Red banana (also known as the Jamaican). This fruit is often harvested in a green, unripe stage, but will continue to ripen and turn yellow, red, brown and black when kept at room temperature. Bananas are more flavorful when allowed to ripen off the plant. When bananas are refrigerated, the skin darkens quicker, but they are kept from becoming soft and mushy for a longer period of time.
How to use:
Bananas are most commonly eaten fresh out-of-hand but can be used for many purposes. They can be added to desserts, such as pies, cakes, bars, muffins, and breads. Bananas also go very well when mixed with yogurt, ice cream, puddings, and custards. They are added to fruit salads, adding a sweet flavor and smooth texture to compliment the other fruit. Bananas can also be cooked by baking, frying, boiling, steaming, and sautÃ©ing. They are used in savory dishes to add a sweet flavor and chewy texture. Bananas can be dried and eaten as a snack. Drying increases their sweetness and produces a nutritious but high calorie snack.
Plantains, a bland and starchier variety, are most often cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They are a popular ingredient in many African and West Indian dishes. They are generally boiled, baked, fried, broiled, microwaved or mashed, and they are rarely eaten raw as a fruit unless they have ripened to a point where the skins are completely black.
At their best: Available year-round.
How to buy:
The stage of ripeness that you buy bananas at will depend on personal preference and desired use. All green bananas are unripe and should not be eaten. Bananas that are mostly yellow with just a tinge of green at the ends will have a crisp texture and fresh taste. All yellow bananas that have a few small brown or black specks are fully ripe and will have a sweet taste and smooth texture. As more specks develop the banana becomes overripe and although the flesh continues to sweeten, it also begins to soften. Once the skin is all browned, it is over ripe and should not be eaten but can be mashed and used for cooking.
If you are buying bananas to eat out-of-hand, buy them at the stage that you prefer the taste and texture. When purchasing to mix with other fruits to make a salad, buy bananas that are fully ripe. Do not purchase overripe bananas unless you intend on using them for cooking.
Plantains should be purchased when green or yellow with black spots if being used for cooking. Do not purchase completely blackened plantains unless you intend to eat them as fresh fruit.
Follow these guidelines if buying bananas for immediate use but if you have time for the bananas to ripen to the stage that you desire, you can buy them when they are still green or under ripe and they will ripen at home when stored at room temperature. Avoid purchasing bananas that have soft spots or damaged skins.
Store at room temperature. Do not expose the fruit to extreme temperatures. Unripe bananas should not be stored in the refrigerator because the cold temperature will stop the ripening process. Ripe bananas can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days to extend their usage time before they become too ripe. Once they are placed in the refrigerator their peel will turn brown but this will not affect the flesh of the banana. If stored with other fruit, bananas will accelerate the ripening of the other fruit.
Ripe bananas can be mashed and then frozen. When mashing, add a little lemon juice to prevent the fruit from discoloring. The mashed bananas can be placed in air tight freezer bag and stored in the freezer for up to two months. You can use the frozen bananas in recipes such as salads and fruit shakes or they can be thawed and used in breads, cakes and muffins.
A smaller variety of the larger Cavendish cousin, shown at the right. The baby banana is very sweet in flavor and unique in its smaller appearance, generally no more than 3 inches long. It is a variety that is often used in fruit salads, for baking breads, or as a snack. The baby banana is grown in the tropical countries of South America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. When ripe, the skin will be bright yellow and have a cream-colored flesh. Also known as a Finger, a Ladyfinger, a Lady Finger, or a Nino banana.
Blue Java banana
A small plump variety of banana that is commonly used as a dessert or snacking banana. It has bluish-green skin that covers a sweet tasting creamy flesh. This banana is also known as the Blue Java Ice Cream banana.
Similar to the well-known Cavendish banana, the Burro Banana is flatter, smaller and more square, yet just as versatile. The Burro from Mexico is available year-round and has a tangy lemony flavor.
The most common variety of banana used in baking, fruit salads, fruit compotes, and to complement foods. It ranges from approximately 6 to 10 inches in length. The outer skin is partially green when sold in food markets and turns yellow when it ripens. When overripe, the skin will turn black and the flesh becomes mushy. Bananas ripen naturally and are at their peak ripeness when the peel is all yellow with a few dark brown specks beginning to appear.
Sweet fragrant flavour
Very attractive plant
Great lunchbox sized fruit
It is a popular commercial cultivar grown extensively for table and processing purpose in the states Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal. It is also popular in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. 'Basrai' is the leading commercial variety of Cavendish group and is a leading commercial variety of Maharashtra. The plant stature is Dwarf making it less prone to wind damage. The bunch size, the fruit length and size is quite good though the keeping quality is rather poor. The average bunch weight with 6-7 hands and with about 13 fruits per hand is about 15-25 kg. The thick rind of the fruits retains to some extent the greenish colour even when the fruits are ripe. Gandevi selection known as 'Hanuman' or 'Padarre' is gaining importance inspite of its longer crop duration. The selection yields bunches weighing 55-60 kg. Performs well under light soils with high inputs. In combination with high-density planting and drip irrigation, Dwarf Cavendish is becoming a highly successful cultivar. It is highly susceptible to Sigatoka leaf spot disease in humid tropics restricting its commercial cultivation.
Dwarf from of ducasse
Very attractive plant
Sweet fragrant flavour
Great lunchbox sized fruit
Doesn’t turn brown when cut
Great ripe for fruit salad
The manzano banana is just one of the hundreds of specialty bananas. This variety is also known as "Apple" or "Finger" Banana. Ripen Manzanos at room temperature until their skin turns completely black. The flavor is like a regular banana with apple and strawberry overtones. Manzanos can be enjoyed plain or cooked. To cook, halve them lengthwise and sauté them in butter with brown sugar or Flambé with rum.
It is a widely cultivated variety for processing. Monthan is a fairly tall and robust plant bearing bunches of 18-20 kg after 12 months. Fruits are bold, stocky, knobbed and pale green in colour. The skin is usually green. The new prolific 'Monthan' type clones of economic value namely 'Kanchi Vazhai' and 'Chakkia' are recently becoming popular in Tamil Nadu. Apart from its culinary use of fruits, pseudostem core is a highly relished vegetable with many medicinal properties. Monthan is also cultivated for production of leaves in Trichy and Tanjore districts of Tamil Nadu. It has many desirable qualities like immunity to Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) diseases, salt tolerance and normal bunch mass even under marginal condition, but it is highly susceptible to Fusarium wilt disease.
It is a popular variety in Kerala where it is relished as a fruit as well as used for processing. Commercial cultivation of Nendran has picked up rapidly in Tamil Nadu in the recent past. Nendran is known to display considerable diversity in plant stature, pseudostem colour, presence or absence of male axis, bunch size, etc. Bunch has 5-6 hands weighing about 12-15 kg. Fruits have a distinct neck with thick green skin turning buff yellow on ripening. Fruits remain as starchy even on ripening. Nendran is highly susceptible to Banana Bract Mosaic Virus (BBMV), nematodes and borers.
Ney Poovan is the choicest diploid cultivar, which is under commercial mono cultivation on a large scale especially in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In Kerala It is grown in backyards and now shifting to large-scale cultivation. Ney Poovan is a slender plant bearing bunches of 15-30 kg after 12-14 months. Dark green fruits turn golden yellow with a very good keeping quality. Fruit is highly fragrant, tasty, powdery and firm. Ney Poovan is tolerant to leaf spot but susceptible to Fusarium wilt and banana bract mosaic virus.
It is a popular variety in Tamil Nadu grown especially for its cooling effects in hot tracts in summer. The variety comes up well in marginal soils without any yield reduction. It is well suited as an intercrop in coconut/arecanut garden. The bunch weight ranges from 12-15 kg (after 11-12 months). Pachanadan could be used in the Nendran plantations for gap filling as it comes up for harvest along with Nendran. This variety is tolerant to leaf spot and Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) diseases, but susceptible to wilt disease.
Pinkish midribs on leaves
Very attractive plant
Agreeably sweet acid flavour
Pisang masak hijau
A large "cooking banana" that is flatter and longer than the common Cavendish banana. With a firm texture and a mild flavor, similar to a squash, the flesh of this banana contains less sugar but more starch than other varieties. Consequently, it is often served as a vegetable or potato and made into savory dishes. The plantain is frequently used in Mexican and Caribbean cooking and is generally fried, braised, mashed, sautÃ©ed, or stewed. The thick skin of the plantain ranges in color from green prior to ripening to yellow and then brownish-black as it fully ripens. Its flesh is light pink or light salmon in color and darkens as it ripens. As it ripens the starch turns to sugar, making it sweet enough to use in desserts.
It is a leading commercial cultivar grown throughout the country with location specific ecotypes like palayankodan in Kerala, Poovan in Tamil Nadu, Karpura Chakkarakeli in Andhra Pradesh and Alpan in North Eastern Region. It is generally cultivated as a perennial crop. Tamil Nadu is the leading producer of Poovan cultivar owing to its climatic and marginal soil condition. Poovan is also commercially cultivated for leaf industry throughout Tamil Nadu and in certain parts of Kerala. Fruit is slightly acidic, firm and has typical sour-sweet aroma. Fruits turn to attractive golden yellow on ripening. Medium sized bunch, closely packed fruits, good keeping quality and resistant to fruit cracking is its plus points. But it is highly susceptible to Banana Bract Mosaic Viral (BBMV) disease and Banana Streak Virus, (BSV), which cause considerable reduction in yield.
It is a medium tall variety commercially grown in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Bihar. Its unique fruit quality has made Rasthali popular and a highly prized cultivar for table purpose. Fruits are yellowish green throughout their development, but turn pale yellow to golden yellow after ripening. Fruit is very tasty with a good aroma. Longer crop duration, severe susceptibility to Fusarium wilt, requirement of bunch cover to protect fruits from sun cracking and formation of hard lumps in fruits make crop production more expensive.
A variety of banana, with a reddish-purple skin, that is shorter and plumper than the traditional Cavendish banana. Raw red bananas have a flesh that is cream to light pink in color and are sweeter than the yellow Cavendish varieties. The red banana is at its peak ripeness when some black spots have begun to appear on the reddish-purple skin. When ripe, their texture is somewhat soft, making them less of a good quality eating banana. Grown in South America and Asia, this fruit can be used in salads or fruit compotes, but is most often used as a baking banana. Red bananas are also known as Jamaican bananas.
It is a semi-tall variety, grown mostly in Tamil Nadu and some parts of Karnataka for table purpose. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is a high yielding and produces bunch of large size with well developed fruits. Dark green fruits turn bright yellow upon ripening depending on ripening conditions. Fruit is very sweet with a good aroma. Bunch weighs about 25-30 kg. Requires propping. Fruit has a poor keeping quality leading to a quick breakdown of pulp after ripening, hence not suited for long distance transportation. Robusta is highly susceptible to Sigatoka leaf spot disease in humid tropics.
Safed Velchi Musa
This is considered a good quality fruit for table purpose and is cultivated in the Thane, Nasik districts of Maharashtra. It is grown under the shade of arecanut gardens in the South Kanara districts of Karanataka. This variety is mediumsized with slender yellowish green pseudostem and can be recognised by the reddish petiole margin, large fruits, very thin and papery rind and white firm flesh that is very sweet. The average bunch weight is about 12 kg with about 150 fruits/bunch. The duration of the variety is about 13 months.
Santa Catarina Silver