Did you know the “Gros” Michel, or “Big Mike,” banana, a tastier banana than the current yellow Cavendish variety, was the common banana sold until the early 1960s when it was infected by a fungus called Panama disease similar to Dutch Elm?
Enjoy the Cavendish while you can. There are reports the Cavendish will be no more within 5 - 10 years ... possibly sooner.
According to this popular science article “in 1992, a new strain of the fungus—one that can affect the Cavendish—was discovered in Asia. Since then, Panama disease Race 4 has wiped out plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and Taiwan, and it is now spreading through much of Southeast Asia. It has yet to hit Africa or Latin America, but most experts agree that it is coming”
It is also a terrific article on banana history …
“By the early 1900s, bananas surpassed apples as the nation’s favorite fruit, becoming so popular that in the days before municipal trash collection, the slapstick slip on a discarded peel was a genuine hazard. (Luckily, Boy Scouts were on the case: “A good turn may consist in removing a piece of banana peel from the pavement,” their 1914 handbook advised.)”
I bought some pretty red bananas and some tiny Manzanos recently. I’ve tried different banana varieties in the past and didn’t think much of them.
It turns out I may not have ripened them properly.
Manzano’s need to be black before eating and promise the combined flavors of strawberries, apples, and bananas. The dumb bananas are still a cheery yellow after a week on the counter, so can’t say yet.
Red bananas also need to turn blackish. I can tell you what an unripe red banana is, and judging by the VERY unripe one I peeled today the rest of the bunch will need a few weeks.
But from what I’ve read the flesh can be orange-tinted, pink or salmony yellow and have a slight raspberry flavor or an aromatic vanilla flavor. Sounds like it would be good with some of the recipes mentioned in this link …
- Red Banana Brulee with Pink Grapefruit Fruit Salsa
- Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Red Banana Crostata
- Red Bananas with Cardamom over vanilla ice cream.
And if you think you never tried a red banana … according to the link that is what is most commonly used for dried bananas.
They also have more beta carotene and vitamin C than regular bananas.
This link on chow mentions some other varieties …
Ice Cream banana - blue skin and a creamy texture
Burro banana - squared sides and a lemon flavor when ripe;
Guinea Verde - a yellow Cavendish used as a starch much like plantains
Macabu - black when fully ripe, with firm sweet pulp and a creamy texture;
Niño banana - a mild, sweet, finger-sized banana
The Chow recipes on the right have a good-sounding recipe for Banana and Fromage Blanc Grilled Cheese
Popular Science mentions a new variety ... Goldfinger ... that has a slightly tart, apple-like flavor and can be used for cooking or eating plain.
Also, a sweet banana using genetic material from radishes was developed in a Belgium lab. It brings up the question of whether the banana might just be the first genetically-altered crop that the general public might accept faced with the choice of the extinction of the beloved banana.
Gratuitous banana info:
Bunches are also known as hands and the fruit as fingers. The word ‘banana’ comes from the Arabic word for finger. They are actually the world’s largest herb
In a Chow article there was a link for a banana guard … a container to take your banana to work without risk of it squishing.
In Africa there is a beer brewed from bananas.
Bananas seem to have a very boring sex life... see Popular Science article.
I changed the original title from 300 to 1,200 varieties. of bananas. It seems Brussels, Belgium, of all places, has the world's largest collection of bananas and plantains.