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Banana bread
Banana bran muffins
Banana cake
Banana muffins
Banana nut cake
Banana cakes with rum sauce
Caramelized banana purses with white chocolate sauce
Flambeed bananas
Fried banana wontons with custard sauce
Lady fingers in pyjamas

Fresh bananas are the most popular fruit in the world, and their sweet, honey-like flavor and comforting custardy texture are familiar to all of us.
These tasty and nutritious (they're one of the best sources of potassium) treats from the tropics are especially inviting in cold winter months. There are many ways to enjoy them both fresh and cooked--in appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.

The different varieties of yellow bananas, baby bananas, known as ti figs in Martinique, red bananas, and plantains now available offer great chances to try out new cooking ideas, especially since these rich-flavored, sweet fruits are used widely in many of the world's tastiest cuisines at all stages of ripeness. Besides ripe bananas' familiar place in fruit salads, smoothies, pancakes, quick breads, and pies, green bananas and barely ripe ones are delicious in savory dishes like Caribbean stews and curries, in African or Thai curries, and in chutneys and salsas.
are very reliable and easy to harvest, making them the most widely available variety and, until recently, just about the only one sold in most markets. When ripe, Cavendish bananas are a rich yellow with little brown spots. They're good for most recipes, but they don't have the flavor nuances of the more exotic varieties.
have reddish-purple skin and slightly pink, creamy flesh. They're often sweeter than yellow bananas, with a touch of raspberry flavor. When ripe, their skins should have a purple hue. Choose those that are still slightly firm. Red bananas are great for eating fresh, for fruit salads, and in pancakes and quick breads.
belong to the same family as bananas but are larger, with more starch and very little sweetness; in tropical countries, they're cooked like a vegetable. Once these large, rather tough-skinned bananas are peeled (you'll need to use a knife), they can be baked, grilled, boiled, sautéed, mashed like potatoes, or fried into delicious chips. Plantains have a mild flavor and are used in curries, stews, and chutneys at every stage of ripeness.
or have a firm texture. They're delicious for eating fresh or tossing in fruit salads. To best enjoy their luscious flavor, be sure they're fully ripe before eating: look for a deep yellow, well-spotted skin.
Bananas don't really grow on trees.
Instead, they grow on stalks formed by sheaths of thick big leaves; the fruits are actually the plant's berries. Botanically, bananas belong to a larger family of plants that includes lilies, ginger, orchids, and palms.
Bananas are grown commercially in the tropics and subtropics of Central and South America for export to the United States. Fruit from the Caribbean and Africa supply most of Europe.
Bananas are picked while still very green.
They're shipped in refrigerated cargo holds, where they're ripened in special facilities with gradually warming temperatures and harmless ethylene gas until they're ready to be shipped to markets. In this nearly ripe commercial stage, a yellow color begins to show through the bright green.
A banana keeps ripening on the shelf.
When shopping for bananas, look for those with no cracks or bruises. Buy bananas tinged with green if you don't plan to eat them right away: they ripen naturally off the plant. Keep them at room temperature; they ripen best that way. (Some people insist on hanging them on a hook to ripen, but I've never felt the need, although this works to hasten even ripening.) Generally, a yellow banana that's ripe enough to eat should be fully and completely yellow with a few black spots freckling its skin. It should give slightly to the touch, peel easily, and have a fruity, fragrant smell.
Whether you like bananas slightly underripe and firm, as opposed to softer, sweeter, and riper, is a matter of preference. Very ripe, blackened bananas can be good for cakes and breads, but avoid overripe ones with a fermented odor.


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