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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Send in the clones

With the cold nip air arriving in Texas, we begin to forget the somewhat tropical climate we usually enjoy here. Certainly tropical enough to cultivate bananas. Many folks plant banana plants around Houston, usually for decorative purposes, but something about last year's climate has triggered many of these plants to produce fruit. Even local food writing legend Robb Walsh is ripening his own harvest.

These, however, are not the Cavendish variety commonly seen in the supermarkets; there are many other different banana varieties. In common American parlance, the dividing line between bananas and plantains is that the latter requires cooking. Truth is, plantains are also bananas. And just about all the bananas I've seen around Houston are of one variety, plump fruit that benefits from cooking.

Harvested bananas
This should come as no surprise: this is a seedless variety, most likely a triploid. But that also means that all the banana plants in Houston are clones, taken as shoots from an original transplant to the area (bananas originated in Southeast Asia). The spread is remarkable, considering that the only way these particular seedless varieties can spread is by human intervention. But this is a quiet invasive species, taking vigorous incursion in the Gulf Coast area - a model immigrant so to speak.

What to do with a harvest? First of all, bananas are climacteric fruit - so freely harvest them green and hard, and allow to ripen in an enclosed area. This variety resembles plantains in that they won't have a uniformly yellow skin, and black is not a sign of rot. Then, cook them. Baked, boiled, they make great fritters or banana bread.

I experimented in making a crepe crusted banana palm sugar pie. Enjoy the clones.

Crepe crusted banana palm sugar pie. 

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