Bananas are one of the most popular and versatile fruits in the world. Whether encorporated into sweet desserts and baked goods, making surprise appearances in salads and entrees, or eaten plain, bananas are delicious, no matter how you peel it.
Bananas are also one of the oldest fruits around, dating back to the 6th century BC. Historical documents point to Malaysia as their region of origin, and from there they were brought by travelers to India. Bananas were confined to these regions until Alexander the Great arrived in India in 327 BC, when he tried bananas and found them delicious. He brought bananas with him when he left India, and is credited with introducing them to the western world. Southern China also cultivated bananas, but they were regarded as an exotic specialty and were not popular with the masses until the modern 20th century.
From Asia, bananas made their way to Madagascar, and by 700 AD were crossing the continent westward across the continent as a popular item on trade routes. They were discovered by Portugese sailors exploring Africa in the early 1400’s, who brought them to myriad destinations throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Bananas finally made it into North America in the late 1800’s.
Here’s a recipe which celebrates the banana’s Indian roots. Banana chutney is sweet and spicy, and makes a delicious and healthy topping for falafel, baked tofu, or grilled seitan.
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ripe bananas, sliced
2 ripe mangos, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
pinch salt, to taste
pinch pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chili flakes and stir for about a minute. Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients to the sauce pan and heat just until the chutney begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until just a little liquid remains in the pan, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool before serving.