Windward Island bananas are a classic example of paying a bit more to get a lot more. Try a taste-off between a Windward banana and one of the cheaper alternatives (usually from Central or South America). The Windward wins hands down. The unique growing conditions (moderate rainfall and thin volcanic soil on steep slopes) result in a banana with a sweetness, succulence and depth of flavour unsurpassed by other imported bananas.
Good all year round, but in the Eat the Seasons year we scoff more of them in the months when there isn't so much UK and European fruit available.
Evidence suggests that bananas have been eaten in India for several thousand years. They were being grown in China in AD200 and by the 15th century were cultivated across Africa. Banana imports only began reaching a wider audience in the northern hemisphere in the last hundred years.
The banana industry on the Windward Islands was established in the 1950's, when the islands were Crown colonies. The introduction of beet sugar to Europe had hit Windward and other Caribbean sugar exporters hard. By giving active encouragement and financial support to farmers abandoning sugar production in favour of bananas, the British Government helped prevent economic decline on the island and ensured that it continued to make a contribution to the Treasury.
he banana plant looks like a tree but is, botanically speaking, a fast-growing perennial herb. Each year it grows a completely new trunk-like shoot that dies back to its roots again after the plant has fruited.
The taste and texture of a banana develops as it ripens. Fruit that are yellow with just the hint of a freckling of brown will be at their most flavoursome; eat your banana earlier than this if you prefer a firmer texture (often better for cooking). Soft or strongly smelling fruit are overripe.
Bananas that require further ripening should be kept at room temperature, but away from heat or direct sun. Ripe bananas can be refrigerated, which arrests the ripening process, for a few days - allow them to reach room temperature before eating.
Banana slices can be prevented from discolouring quite so quickly by dipping them in an acidic citrus juice such as orange, lemon or lime.
In Uganda, around Kilimanjaro, and in parts of western Kenya and western Tanzania, bananas are the main raw material for a number of fermented drinks including banana beer and banana wine.
The banana plant is regarded by Hindus as a symbol of fertility and prosperity, and the leaves and fruits often feature in marriage rituals.
Ripening bananas give off substantial quantities of ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening in other foods. Unripe foods such as tomatoes or avocados can be ripened in hours if placed in a closed container with a banana.