Banana Tutorial # 1

9.25am, Monday 5th December, Yalumba Clocktower, Eden valley Road, South Australia

Home for a while, folks, and tonight’s job will be to put up the Christmas tree, seeing as our family get-together, Festive Season lunch will be at my place. The nieces and nephews love it because I decorate the tre with all sorts of edible ornaments … and they get to make up showbags to take home from the tree at the end of the day. The big kids make sure they don’t miss out either. The big favourite most years are the chocolate elves with the popping candy bits in them!

But before I get too carried away with what’s happening in a couple of weeks, I just want to backtrack a bit across the last few days up in tropical FNQ. First up was my visit to Rusty’s market in Cairns last Friday morning. It’s a fruit and veg market mainly, and starts at 5am – which makes a lot of sense, given the way that the days get really humid really quickly after sunrise. I love it because you get all sorts of tropical fruits super fresh straight off the trees – and you get an opportunity to try a lot of the fruits that we never really see at all ‘down south’. Last trip to Cairns (earlier this year) was my first ever taste of Dragonfruit – the bright purple ‘flower pod’ – that tastes like a cross between strawberry or raspberry and kiwifruit.

And this trip, it was a whole new look at bananas. The common variety that we have everywhere across Australia is the Cavendish. As a bit of an alternative, sometimes we’ll see the small Lady’s Finger bananas in the Adelaide Central Market but that’s about it. Well, Last friday I was lucky enough to have the whole story and tasting on the four banana varieties: Cavendish, Lady’s Finger, Sugar and Monkey. The differences are huge.

In this picture, I’ve got left to right – Monkey, Sugar & Cavendish fruit, which gives you a bit of an idea of the difference in size.

The Cavendish we know well – gristly and sticks to your teeth in a nasty way when it’s green, but very bananaey when it’s soft, and then it gets overripe quickly, collapses and is only good for smoothies and banana bread.

The Monkey fruit has a massively intense bananaey flavour without being super sweet – almost like the ‘ripe banana’ soft chewy lollies that you can get.

The Lady’s Finger is medium banana and medium sweet and sits right in the middle of it all.

Then there’s the big sweet hit of the Sugar banana. It holds its firm texture well even when really ripe, has solid banana flavour, but the winner is this silky sweetness that makes it absolutely perfect for cooking. Especially when you’re looking for something to make tempura battered fritters out of – or to cook in a pan with salted butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. Yum!

Any rate – have to run – even more from the tropics next time!

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