There is a wonderful image associated with the islands of the South Pacific of bartering trinkets for armloads of fresh fruit, and sailing away with a stalk of green bananas swaying on deck. We actually found this reality in the islands of the Marquesas, where a couple of T-shirts could be traded for a few great round pamplemousse (grapefruit) and a whole stalk of bananas.
No other fruit pops so quickly to mind than bananas when you conjure up images of rainforest covered islands. Aboard Tackless II, such images were aided by our having both read Thor Heyerdahl’s Fatu Hiva, the famous adventure’s account of his honeymoon experiment in "back to nature" living on the Marquesas’ easternmost and most remote island. Banana’s figured heavily in their diet.
A banana tree is not really a "tree" at all, but a plant that takes a mere nine to fifteen months to grow and produce fruit. Each new plant grows from the old one via a sprout from the underground rhizomes, with new stalks replacing old ones and thus giving the impression of an ongoing tree. The stalk produces a single huge purple bud which flowers into tubular white florets that eventually become the "hands" of fruit that clothe the stalk and which show up on supermarket shelves.
Except, of course that in the islands they don’t. Bananas grow so lushly in everyone’s back yards that there is no call for stores to carry them?..or any fruit for that matter. Yet, from our first moments checking into the islands in Atuona, where a store sold sweet red banana tarts still hot from the oven, to our last anchorage at Daniel’s Bay where we bought stalks of three different varieties from a tattooed descendant of island royalty, bananas were a staple of our diet during our time in the Marquesas. We ate the fat red fei bananas cooked in coconut milk as a side dish to traditional pig roasts we attended on Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva and we ate bananas roasted in their skins and fried like dumplings on Ua Pou.
And of course, we ate them straight, often two or three at a time as that stalk we’d quickly learned to trade for swung over the deck, unfailingly ripening all at once! For a while there was a lot of banana bread baking in cruiser ovens. Once we got tired of having those ovens on for hours as time, everyone was scrambling for different recipes to use up those excess bananas dropping to the deck.
Here are some of the different ideas that made the rounds:
In a big pan sir together water and sugar. Boil for 3 minutes. Cut banana into small chunks and cover with lemon juice. Add to sugar mixture. Add vanilla, zests & spice. Stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
Grease a pie plate and layer the banana slices in the pan. In another bowl cut together the remaining ingredients with two knives until the mixture resembles the texture of cornmeal (or mix in a food processor). Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake the dessert in 375* oven for 25 minutes or until topping is crisp.
Serve hot with sweetened canned cream or vanilla yoghurt.
And, for something a little different, here are two recipes that utilize the banana flower. We enjoyed this unusual salad made by Heather of the traditional ketch sv C’est La Vie when rafted together in a remote spot in Huahine. It was surprisingly tasty!
Banana Flower Salad
Don’t have a clue how many that serves?but banana flowers look pretty big on their stalk!
Banana Flower Dinner