A Big Hand For Apple Bananas

Yoshii Farm grows tropical fruit on more than 30 acres. Dickie and Linda Yoshii started farming on Kauai in 1975. Their son Richard is taking over the farm, and preserving it for his 2-year-old son Leighton.

What’s growing now: Apple banana, avocado, bonsai (juniper, jade, desert rose), breadfruit, calamansi, caimito (cream apple), chico, chili peppers, culinary herbs, dragon fruit, flowers, ginger, grapefruit, guava, jackfruit, limes (Tahitian), longan, lilikoi (purple), lychee, macadamia nuts, mango, mamay sapote, mountain apple, oranges, papaya, pomelo, rambutan, soursop, star fruit, Surinam cherry, tamarind, tangelo, tangerines, taro (dry-land)

APPLE BANANA

Mai’a is the Hawaiian word for banana. Early Polynesians introduced bananas, which were taboo for women. It was considered bad luck to dream of bananas, to meet a man carrying bananas, or to take them in fishing canoes.

The banana plant is not a tree (it does not have any woody components) but a perennial giant herb. It is an herb because its aerial parts die down to the ground after the growing season. It is a perennial because an offshoot growing at the base of the plant, the sucker, replaces the mother plant.

Bananas grow in a bunch consisting of seven to eight clusters called “hands.” Each hand contains about 10 bananas. The banana plant will fruit once before it dies. Apple banana is a general name in Hawaii for two types of closely related bananas: “Apple, tall” or Brazilian, now called Hawaiian Apple, and the shorter Dwarf Brazilian or Santa Catarina. The Brazilian bananas are often incorrectly referred to as apple bananas in Hawaii.

Season: Flower development is initiated from the true stem underground (corm) nine to 12 months after planting. Fruits mature in about 60 to 90 days after flowers first appear. Bananas are available year-round on Kaua’i.

What to look for: The fruit quality is determined by size (length and thickness), evenness of ripening, freedom from blemishes and defects, and the arrangement of the clusters.

Storage: As the fruit ripens, sugar content increases while starch content decreases. Green bananas can be stored for up to seven days at room temperature. Neither green nor ripe bananas should be stored at temperatures lower than 58 degrees if you are going to eat them raw. Banana fruits will dis-color and the flesh will become mealy at cooler temperatures.

Preparation: Ripe fruit can be used in ice cream, yogurt, cake, bread, nectar and baby food. They can be dried and eaten, or sliced, canned with syrup, and used in bakery products, fruit salads and toppings. Green (unripe) bananas can be sliced and fried as chips, or dried and ground into flour. Vinegar and alcoholic beverages can be made from fermented ripe bananas. The heart of the banana flower is used as a vegetable in South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine, either raw or steamed with dips or cooked in soups, curries and fried foods. The flavor resembles that of an artichoke. As with artichokes, both the fleshy part of the bracts and the heart are edible.

The banana leaves are not eaten but may be used for wrapping food in cooking, and the banana trunk is used for moisture and flavor in an imu.

Tip: Ripe bananas can be frozen, in their skin, for later use in shakes, ice cream or bread.

Health benefits: A 6-inch banana contains 90 calories. Bananas contain about 74 percent water, 23 percent carbohydrate, 1 percent protein and 0.5 percent fat. A 4-ounce banana is a good source of vitamin B6, potassium and fiber.

Yoshii Farm produce can be found at: Farmers Markets: Kukui Grove, (Mondays at 3 p.m.), Waipa (Tuesdays, 2 p.m.), Kapaa (Wednesdays, 3 p.m.).

Restaurants: Oasis on the Beach, Lappert’s Hawaii. Grocery: Times, Papayas Natural Foods and Cafe, Harvest Market.

LINDA’S BANANA LUMPIA

While my husband Dan and I were at Yoshii Farm, Linda set out plates of cold lychee, boiled purple sweet potatoes and her banana lumpia for a mid-afternoon snack. She kindly shared her recipe, and said these can be made ahead and frozen. She puts the frozen lumpia right in the pan.

* 5 apple bananas
* 10 lumpia wrappers
* vegetable oil

Peel bananas and slice in half lengthwise. Wrap each half in a lumpia wrapper. Stack on a plate near the stove.

Set frying pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add a quarter-inch of mild flavored cooking oil. Fry two or three minutes, until golden brown. Flip and repeat. Drain on paper towels.

Makes 10 lumpia.

On June 2, the farmers market in Hanalei closed. We send our warmest aloha to the families whose livelihoods are deeply affected by this closure. Your community will miss you. For more information, visit “Save the Hanalei Farmers Market-Kauai” on Facebook.

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