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Philippine Bananas Up Close

There are many banana varieties grown in the Philippines. It is an easy-to-grow plant, so much so that it is common to see banana plants everywhere in the country: in small plots of land, even within the fenced property of houses in gated villages or subdivisions. Well-known banana plantations are mostly found in the southern part of the Philippines, notably in Davao, one of the provinces in Mindanao.

Banana is one of the fruit crops the Philippines is known for, the other two being mangoes and pineapple. Of the numerous varieties found in the Philippines, the most common are Saba, Lacatan, Latundan, Bungulan and Cavendish. These varieties differ in size, shape, taste and uses.

The fruit of the Saba is angular and has thick, green peel when unripe and turns yellow when ripe. The ripen flesh is white. This is commonly cooked, either as main ingredient in a dish, as extender in some meat dishes or simply boiled. Lacatan is seedless and has yellowish flesh with a thick peel. Latundan has white flesh when ripe and has thin peel. Latundan varieties that have naturally brown specks in its skin are sweeter than the kind that have more or less, even colour. Bungulan likewise is seedless, very sweet, aromatic when ripe and has very short shelf life. Cavendish is bigger and longer than Bungulan. Its ripe flesh is yellow. Cavendish is normally exported. Lacatan, Latundan, Bungulan and Cavendish are rounded in shape and are best eaten fresh when ripe.

Another variety is known as Senyorita, popular among local tourists that frequent Tagaytay, a tourist destination famous for its cool climate, view of the Taal Volcano and its proximity to Metro Manila. Senyorita is small in size, with a sweet and creamy flesh when ripe. It has thin peel the color of which is green when young and turns yellow when ripe. This variety easily spoils so it must be eaten soon as it ripens.

The abundance of bananas in the country has resulted in it becoming part of Filipino diet. It is common practice in the Philippines to feed toddlers with mashed, ripe Latundan while ripe Lacatan and Bungulan are best used in breads and cakes.

You will find at the end of this article two simple recipes using bananas.

Other than its fruits, some parts of the banana plant are edible and are considered exotic food by some. These are its “heart”, blossoms, and the plant’s inner core (Ubud in the vernacular). There are also many other uses found and developed using the entire banana plant, notably its leaves for food packaging and fibres weaved into cloth material.

Here are two simple banana recipes you may want to try:

Banana Noodle Soup
2 cups Unripe Saba banana, grated
1 cup fresh noodles (If not available, use Vermicelli)
2 eggs Whole, beaten
1 piece Small onion, thinly sliced
Minced garlic, according to taste
Enough water or stock
Green onions
Salt, pepper according to taste

1. Sauté onion until glazed, add garlic, taking care not to overcook. Overbrowning garlic may result to a bitter taste.
2. Add the grated banana and water or stock and bring to a boil
3. Add noodles and simmer for a few minutes. (when using vermicelli, soak in water at room temperature first)
4. Season with salt and pepper according to taste
5. Add the well beaten eggs, stirring while doing so. Add green onions
6. Serve hot.

Sweetened Bananas
3 cups bananas, cubed or sliced
1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsps. Vanilla extract or lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar

1. Caramelize sugar and water.
2. Add vanilla extract or lemon juice.
3. Add the bananas. Stir gradually until banana is coated with syrup and liquid volume is reduced
4. Cool and serve. (Optional: On a hot, humid day, you may want to serve with shaved ice on top and a swirl of milk).

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Content copyright © 2013 by Rachel Meneses-Ponce. All rights reserved.
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