About Bananas: More than just a banana split or a worthy snack!

Ripe bananas

What you need to know:

  • Review. There are many things that have been said about bananas, they are eaten in various ways plus there are so many types of this humble fruit. A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

The world over including here in Uganda, bananas have been called the “the humblest and simplest fruit that ever existed” I mean really, who takes them quite seriously! Yet throughout the country they happen to be the fruit most frequently eaten and accessible.

Not surprisingly, for they are by and large the most easily digestible and comparatively inexpensive compared to many other types of fruit. Not to mention the fact that they are high in nutritive value and without a doubt, have the distinction of being the cheapest of all foods, including milk---- despite their low protein content.  It is common to see ladies and young men carrying them on their head and moving around offering them for sale piecemeal. 

Bananas when ready to eat vary in size as well as in skin colour. They range from a pale creamy yellow to russet red, the latter being hard to find in the market but nevertheless available. Plantain aka gonja, must always be cooked and can be prepared in a variety of ways including steaming or deep frying. These 9 to 12 -inch bananas, unlike their ubiquitous smaller cousins must always be cooked before eating being careful not to overcook them since high heat releases an objectionable tannin component.

They can be prepared in their green state, but here in Uganda are generally prepared when they are semi-ripe or quite mature, when the skin often becomes black mottled. Cooked chopped ripe plantains also make a more than acceptable component of stews, soups and omelets.  

Remove the fibrous strings from plantain before cooking, as they tend to darken. Peel green plantains under running cold water to keep from staining the hands. Cut across into 2-inch-thick pieces and place at once in rapidly boiling water. Simmer for about thirty minutes and when ready, season and serve with butter. If you are using ripe plantains, slice fine and deep fry in cooking oil that is hot for about 5 minutes or until ready. 

Commercial varieties of bananas, always picked unripe, are matured by special moist processing before reaching the point of sale. They should not be eaten until further ripened by holding them at 70d FH in a closed paper bag until yellow in colour. Once cut, they darken rapidly unless sprinkled with citrus juice such as lemon. As a rule, use slightly under ripe bananas for cooking except when you are making banana bread. 

For as far back as I can remember, we were warned to music, “never never” to refrigerate bananas. Our experience has been that although the skins darken ominously, the interior or the flesh in a manner of speaking remains fairly palatable even after a week of refrigeration. Speaking of which, I doubt if many of you are aware that bananas can be successfully frozen; if after partially thawing in the fridge they are used immediately and in this case they would best be suited for desserts. Actually, they are a number of ways in which we may prepare frozen bananas and enjoy them without thawing.

One would be to simply cut them into chips, spread the chips out on a piece of aluminum foil, wrap them securely, freeze and munch on them as occasional snacks. Alternatively, you could mash up the pulp, if ripe, with a palatable mixture of lemon juice, honey and cinnamon before freezing. Another great freezing process that we have used several times which is great when you have a bunch of youngsters around is conversion into Chocolate Dipped Bananas: see below Quick Chocolate Fondue Sauce.
Ugandan Coffee Bananas 

This is a wonderfully rich, lavish and sinfully delicious looking dessert and the best part of it is that it only takes less than five minutes to make!
Serves 4
4 to 6 sweet bananas (sukali ndizi) or more depending on the size
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules or powder
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1 ½ cups strained plain yogurt
1 tablespoon toasted almonds 
2 or 3 tablespoons of dark rum or brandy (optional)
1.Peel and slice one or two bananas and mash the remaining three or whatever balance you have at hand.
2.    Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and then stir in the mashed potatoes.
3.    Spoon a little of the mashed banana mixture into four or more serving dishes and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and top with a tablespoon of yogurt and repeat until all the ingredients are used up. 
4.    If you are using dark brandy or rum, then add a dash to each serving dish. 
5.    Swirl the last layer of yogurt for a marbled effect and then finish with a few banana slices and slivered almonds. Serve cold and best eaten within an hour of making.