Streetcar: Best of the Bunch

Not much good can be said about 2020, but I will concede this, it was a good year for bananas, especially those grown in the backyard, maybe too good.

When we first bought the house, I knew there was a banana tree in the back. What I did not know, until after Katrina blew down a neighbor’s overhanging pine tree, was that there were two more hidden by the back fence. (Technically they are not trees but very tall plants.) The fallen pine opened more sunlight. Now, the three trees combined comprise a banana factory. There are bunches and bunches of bunches seemingly popping from the branches throughout the year.

A banana bunch can be lethal if not heeded. They are heavy, and when their time comes, they can bring a section of the tree crashing on the ground, or a vehicle, causing a huge cleanup, which usually involves swinging a machete. The wise banana grower chops off the bunch before its drops. On this chore, I sometimes fail, though I am proud to be the only person on the block to have a machete.

After removing the bunch, the next question is what to do with it, as most people do not have immediate need for 60 or so green ripening bananas. This year I have engaged nature to do the work by providing the sunlight once I put the bunch on an outside chair, to let the ripening begin.

Here again caution is needed. If the bunch is not tended to, within a few days various critters start attacking the stalk, and what they do not get, the fruit flies will. Usually I am able to salvage maybe four or five consumable ripened yellow bananas per bunch.

I will say this about my backyard bananas: For all the trouble they cause, they are genuinely good. These are not those scientifically grown store-bought bananas developed to last long on the shelf, but a natural Central American species called a “burro banana.” The fruit are shorter and plumper than the regular kind and have an amazing taste with a touch of lemon flavor. The bananas are ripe as they turn yellow, but the taste intensifies as they develop black spots. When almost totally black, the taste is at its fullest. The problem from the perspective of being neighborly is trying to offer someone black bananas. The fruit are probably most acceptable when peeled in the kitchen and plopped into a daiquiri.

Burro bananas are supposedly low in fat and calories and high in Vitamin C, B and fiber. And they are also good for building muscles—if you have to swing the machete enough.


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