Fruit of the Week: Banana

– A banana is an edible fruit, technically a berry!
– Variable in size, color and firmness
– Usually long and curved, with soft flesh covered with a peel which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe
– Bananas grow in bunches hanging from the top of the plant
– Bananas have a protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with many long, thin strings (the phloem bundles), which run lengthwise between the skin and the fruit
– In cultivated bananas, the seeds are nearly non-existent, what’s left of them is tiny black specks inside the fruit
– A person slipping on a banana peel has been a staple of physical comedy for generations
– Almost all modern bananas come from two species
– Banana plants are native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia
– Are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea
– Bananas are grown in at least 107 countries, mostly for their fruit, and sometimes to make fiber, banana wine and banana beer and as ornamental plants
– Banana sap from the stem, peelings or flesh may be sufficiently sticky for adhesive uses
– Worldwide, there is no sharp distinction between “bananas” and “plantains”
– In some countries, bananas used for cooking may be called plantains
– In the Americas and Europe, “banana” usually means soft, sweet, dessert bananas (mainly the Cavendish variety), which are the main exports from banana-growing countries
– The firmer, starchier fruit are called “plantains”
– Bananas and plantains constitute a major staple food crop for millions of people in developing countries
– Most producers are small-scale farmers either for home consumption or local markets
– Because bananas and plantains produce fruit year-round, they provide an extremely valuable food source during the hunger season (when the food from one annual/semi-annual harvest has been consumed, and the next is still to come)
– Bananas and plantains are therefore critical to global food security
– In Burma, bunches of green bananas surrounding a green coconut in a tray form an important part of traditional offerings to the Buddha and the Nats
– The banana plant has long been a source of fiber for high quality textiles
– Banana fiber is also used in the production of banana paper
– Banana paper is made from two different parts: the bark of the banana plant, mainly used for artistic purposes, or from the fibers of the stem and non-usable fruits
– Banana peel may have the capability to extract heavy metal contamination from river water, similar to other purification materials
– In Thailand, it is believed that a certain type of banana plants may be inhabited by a spirit, Nang Tani, a type of ghost related to trees and similar plants that manifests itself as a young woman; often people tie a length of colored satin cloth around the stem of the banana plants

Caramelized Bananas

Caramelized Bananas
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
2-3 bananas
4-6 tablespoons granulated sugar (or more)
cooking spray (regular or butter flavor)

Directions:
1. Slice bananas into thick coins or lengthwise strips, depending on your preference.
2. Pour sugar onto a plate.
3. Roll bananas in sugar, until completely coated.
4. Spray a medium size nonstick pan, and heat over medium high heat.
5. Add bananas and sugar.
6. Cook bananas until light to golden brown underneath, about 4-5 minutes (you can lift with a spatula or fork to peek). Be careful not to overcook or burn them (if you smell them browning, or see color in the pan, flip them right away). Keep in mind these times will vary, depending on your stove.
7. Gently flip bananas over to brown other side, turning heat down to medium.
8. The second side will brown in about one minute.
9. Transfer to a plate that has been coated with cooking spray (otherwise they may stick – they are ooey gooey and sticky!) and serve.
10. Alternately, slide them right onto your ice cream or breakfast food.
11. Enjoy!

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