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Malaysian Baked Bananas

Now that I’ve given you the history of bananas, and you know how intriguing they are, I thought I’d share a recipe with you, so that you have something to do with your bananas besides just slicing them on your cereal or eating them plain.

Malaysian baked bananas are wonderfully flavorful. It’s a really easy recipe, which is good, because once you taste it, you’ll probably want to have it often. I know I do. The flavor is richly exotic and just a bit tangy, thanks to the lime juice and ginger. Enjoy.

Malaysian Baked Bananas
4 Tbs. butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2-1/2 Tbs. lime juice
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
6 ripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and soft. Beat in the cloves, lime juice, and ginger.

Lightly grease the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the bananas. Cut the bananas in half crossways at the center, then slice halves in half lengthwise. Lay the bananas in the greased backing dish. Stir the butter mixture one more time then spread it over the bananas. Put the dish in the center of the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and the bananas are cooked through and tender. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Note: The lime juice will not completely incorporate into the butter, but that doesn’t matter. Come close, and just spread them together over the bananas. Also, nothing spreads easily over bananas, because bananas are slippery, and things tend to slide over the surface. Dotting and flattening the mixture over the bananas in a close approximation of spreading is adequate.

© 2008 Cynthia Clampitt

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Have a Banana

 

Bananas-Mexico

Bananas—niños and red—in a market in Mexico.

Touring a banana plantation in Western Australia about 20 years ago, I learned something that surprised me. Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow on tall herbs. In fact, the banana plant is the world’s largest herb. It’s mostly water held together with a bit of greenery. However, though bananas are herbs, many of their distant relatives are spices, including ginger, turmeric, and cardamom.

Another thing that might seem surprising, especially if you’re reading this in some cold, northern clime where bananas aren’t growing in your backyard, is that bananas, including plantains, are considered a staple food on the world stage. (Bananas are one of the two world’s staples—the other is coconut—that are not cereals or roots.)

The bananas we find in our grocery stores are hybrids—and, indeed, this is true of the hundreds of varieties of bananas found in markets worldwide. In the wild, bananas are full of seeds and not terribly appetizing. Most cultivated bananas today are descended from a hybrid created eons ago using an edible (though not ideal) wild banana known as the “monkey banana,” which still grows in the Malaysian/Indonesian region, and another wild species, this one inedible. Because of the relative unpleasantness of wild bananas, it seems likely that this crossbreeding took place fairly early in human history. Continue reading

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