A banana tree is not really a fruit tree, but an herb, with a "tree trunk" that is a stem of tightly wrapped leaves. The banana we eat is the fruit (technically a false berry) and the black piece that sometimes remains on the end of the banana is the dead flower. Bananas ripen best after being harvested, so each 50 pound bunch is picked green. There are over 400 varieties of bananas, but most of the bananas found at the supermarket are the yellow Cavendish bananas. The Burro banana is shorter than the Cavendish, and has an interesting lemony flavor. The Blue Java has blotchy silver-toned skin and tastes of ice cream, while the Manzano tastes of strawberries. The plantain is a large firm banana variety that is typically cooked as a starch (before ripening). Lady Finger bananas are a small, curved, very sweet variety.
Season: available year-round
How to select: Look for plump, even-colored bananas without green tips (which will require further ripening). To ripen at home, place in a brown paper bag. Use bananas with lots of brown speckles for breads, because these are fully ripe and all starch has been converted to sugar.
How to store: Store uncovered at room temperature, or in the refrigerator for several days (the peel will turn brown but the fruit will be fine).
How to prepare: Flesh will brown when exposed to air. To avoid browning brush with lemon juice. bake, broil, poach, raw
Matches well with: almonds, apricots, bacon, blueberries, brandy, brown sugar, butter, caramel, cardamom, chicken, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, coriander, cream, cream cheese, custard, eggs, fruits, gin, ginger, honey, ice cream, lemon, maple syrup, nuts, oranges, pecans, pineapples, raspberries, rum, sour cream, strawberries, vanilla, yogurt
Substitutions: bananas = plantains for baking, mashing or frying; dried bananas = dried coconuts or other dried fruit