Photo: Late boat at Waecicu near Labuan Bajo.

What is a banana?

The banana is the best-known fruit of the tropics and the most widely eaten. Southeast Asia is home to scores of banana varieties, ranging from the small and plump "lady's fingers" with delicate thin skins to the long, crescent-moon shaped banana with its thick protective skin. Both the fruit, leaf, flower and stalk of the banana tree are used widely in Southeast Asian cooking all year round. The fruit can be smoked, grilled, fried or boiled in syrups to be eaten as a dessert. Deep-fried battered bananas are a common street vendor treat -- look for the huge silver vats of oil they are cooked in and snap some up while they are still hot and crispy. The crimson banana flower is used as a vegetable, often in tangy salads, while banana leaves are used to wrap foods prior to steaming or simply to take home from the market.

The banana tree can grow up to 10 metres high and is actually a giant perennial herb which grows a complete new trunk every year and dies back after it has flowered and fruited. The fruit is actually a berry. A complete "hand" of bananas can weigh up to 45 kilograms.

Bananas produce an unusually large amount of ethylene gas, which causes ripening and development of a fruit's colour. So if you pop a ripening banana into a sealed box with green tomatoes or an avocado, it will help them ripen. Bananas are a good source of fibre, potassium and vitamin C.

Fruit in Asia FAQ

A bit of history, perhaps a taste-test and an idea on just what some of those Asian fruits really look like.

Asian fruit FAQ

What is a cantaloupe?
What is a durian?
What is a guava?
What is a jackfruit?
What is a longan?
What is a mangosteen?
What is a papaya?
What is a pineapple?
What is a rambutan?
What is a soursop?
What is a starfruit?
What is a watermelon?

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