banana

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Also known as
Kela, Vazhaipazham, Baalehannu

Description
Banana, as the name suggests, is the soft and sweet fruit of the banana tree, a native of the Indian subcontinent, which is now cultivated in tropical regions like Africa, West Indies and South America.

Each plant/ tree bears around 45 to 150 bananas, which have outer skins in varying shades of green, yellow or red, and a white or off-white coloured sweet flesh. Only certain varieties of banana are amenable to ripening, while others – called plantains – are cooked raw akin to vegetables. This article focuses on the banana fruit.

Banana cubes
To make banana cubes, peel the banana and place on a chopping board. Using a knife, cut lengthwise along the centre of the banana to get two equal halves. Join the halves with your non-working hand, and cut breadth wise at ½ inch/ 1 inch regular intervals to make banana cubes. Cubes are used mainly in fruit salads.
Chopped bananas
To make chopped banana, peel the banana and place on a chopping board. Using a knife, cut lengthwise along the centre of the banana to get two equal halves. Cut both halves vertically into equal strips, and then place all the strips together. Chop breadth-wise at regular intervals, to make chopped bananas.
Mashed bananas
Chop the banana into rough slices and place in a food processor along with cream or sugar (optional). Blend till well mashed. Mashed banana is used in banana bread, cake recipes, etc.
Sliced bananas
Peel the outer skin of the banana. Place on a chopping board, and cut off the two smudged corners. Now, cut the banana breadth-wise at regular intervals to get slices of required width.

How to select
• Buy fairly firm bananas with smooth skin.
• Prefer bananas with the stem intact, as ones that are open at the eyes tend to attract flies and mosquitoes! In case you end up with an open one, remember to cut off the edge before consuming the fruit.
• Different varieties of bananas have different flavours, aromas and medicinal properties too. Be aware of these, and choose as per the requirement.
• There are three ways to see if a banana is ripe: it gives in slightly when you press, it gives off a fruity rather than sappy smell, and it can be plucked off the stem easily.

Culinary Uses
• This is one tasty fruit you can just peel and relish as it is!
• It is also an integral part of fruit salads, including those served with cream, custard etc.
• It can also be mashed and used in many sweet dishes like sweet appam, banana kheer and panchamrutam.
• Banana puree is given to infants as a first-food, since it is easy to digest and has an attractive flavour too.
• Banana is widely used in fruit flambé where it is cooked in butter and sugar till it caramelizes and then combined with alcohol. This makes a delicious dessert.
• Of course, there is the ever popular Banana Split, a sundae of sliced bananas topped with different ice creams, sauces and nuts.
• Dip sliced bananas in batter and deep fry to make banana fritters.
• Bananas are often used to flavour cakes and muffins. The famous Banana Walnut Cake needs no introduction.

How to store
• They can be kept at normal temperatures for several days. However, remember that they will continue to ripen as the days pass, so buy only as many as you can eat in a day or two.
• Always store at room temperature, covered by a net to keep away flies.
• Do not store bananas under refrigerated conditions since they have a tendency to turn black at low temperatures.
• Also it is not advisable to cut or chop and store them as they turn black and soggy.

Health Benefits
• Packed with sugars and fibre, it is a quick energy giver! It is therefore advisable to have bananas in the mornings, to get a full energy boost!
• This also makes it an ideal food for growing children.
• It is high in vitamins A, C and K.
• Apart from this, it is high in starch and potassium. Potassium helps normalize the heartbeat and regulates the body's water balance. During high stress situations, when the levels of potassium dip, eating bananas is beneficial.
• Bananas help restore normal bowel movements. Pectin present in banana helps normalize movement through the digestive tract.
• People suffering obesity or diabetes and those on weight loss regime should avoid bananas as they are rich in sugars.




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