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Sunday, March 20, 2011
WHAT IS KELA? BANANA: HEALTH BENEFITS , USES AND HISTORY OF BANANAS: EASY BANOFFEE PIE RECIPE
Bananas probably need no introduction but there are some interesting facts about them that you may not know. The banana tree isn’t actually a tree although it can grow to heights of between 10 and 26 feet; it is actually the world’s largest known herb. The flowers which are the precursors of the fruit are absolutely beautiful and this is perhaps not so surprising as it is a member of the orchid and lily family of plants.
In Pakistan bananas are small, and the name banana actually comes from the Arabic word for finger, banan. The trees I have been up close to do not seem to be well rooted, as they will topple if shoved hard. I know this because the owner of this site was once trying to get rid of a large member of the lizard family that was calling “uck oo” which sounded remarkably as though it was being insulting, outside our bedroom window in Thailand. The poor lizard got a shock when the tree was pushed and fell over. It left us alone at night after that.
Bananas have an interesting history. It is believed that they originated in Malaysia and were spread from there by travellers across South East Asia through to India in South Asia. They are mentioned in 6th century BC Indian manuscripts, in Pali writings and Alexander the Great first tasted them around 327 BC in his campaign in India. Contrary to some beliefs, he did not introduce them to Europe. They were cultivated in China in 200BC but didn’t become popular until the early 20th century, as they were considered exotic fruit. Somehow they found their way to the island of Madagascar off the south eastern coast of Africa, and were discovered by the Arab slave traders and taken to Guinea in West Africa, where the Portuguese explorers found them in 1402. They introduced them into the Canary Islands, and they were cultivated there. A Portuguese Franciscan monk took them from there to the Caribbean island of Santa Domingo in 1516 and by 1633 a greengrocer was selling the exotic banana in a shop in London. There is a wood cut engraving of a bunch of bananas in Gerard’s “Herball” in the 1633 edition, although it is not known how the banan came to be on British soil. In the days before refrigeration the fruit could not have survived a voyage from the Caribbean, so perhaps they were grown in hot houses in the UK. However, this is pure speculation as no one actually seems to know how they got to that green grocer’s shop. They didn’t arrive in America until they were sold at a festival to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Pennsylvania in 1876 when they were sold for 10 cents each, wrapped in silver foil.
Now the banana is one of the world’s most popular fruit after the tomato, ranked at number two or three. In the UK alone, people eat around 12 kgs of bananas per head every year and that’s a lot of bananas.
The banana has been so popular that it has inspired songs such as “Yes, We Have No Bananas” by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, from the Broadway revue of the early 20th century. This was popularized once more in Britain during the Second World War when there were no bananas imported, much to the disgruntlement of the population. Then there is the Jamaican mento (a precursor of reggae and calypso) folksong “The Banana Boat Song” (a.k.a. “Day-O”) popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1956.
Of course there are the old music hall jokes of people having the misfortune to slip on a banana skin too. We also have the term Banana Republic to describe a small country which is not democratic or economically and politically stable, and Woody Allen’s film “Bananas” from 1971. Then there’s the term “to go bananas” meaning to be temporarily crazy.
Bananas are packed with fibre and so prevent constipation so reducing the risk of colon cancer and piles. If you eat a banana a day you will lower the risk of getting many diseases. They are good for anaemia because of their iron content and are rich in potassium, which means that they are good for brain power. The US Food and Drug Administration have allowed banana producers to claim that they can reduce high blood pressure and help to minimize the risk of strokes. They have vitamins A, C and B-complex vitamins along with other minerals, zinc, calcium and magnesium so have powerful antioxidant properties. They also contain tryptophan (an amino acid)which the body converts to serotonin, known as the happiness substance, which helps lift depression and regulates moods so is good for PMS/PMT sufferers as vitamin B6 regulates blood glucose levels and is effective with serotonin. The B-complex vitamins also calm the nervous system, and sufferers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also benefit from eating bananas. They are also good to soothe the stomach, and have an antacid effect so relieve heartburn and indigestion. Banana milkshakes are good for hangovers, especially if honey is added as the milk rehydrates the body and soothes the stomach while the honey increases depleted blood sugar levels. The bananas also calm the troubled stomach. Bananas are also good for people with stomach ulcers and even the skin can be used to relieve the irritation caused by insect bites. Put the inside of the skin on the bite for more or less instant relief. People also swear that if you put the inside of a banana skin on a wart and secure it with a sticking plaster, it will get rid of the wart. Bananas are also good for the eyes, as are carrots and wimberries.
The recipe below is a favourite in Britain and although it is not particularly healthy it is delightful if you are not a diabetic.
4 oz melted butter
10 oz digestive biscuits (wheat biscuits), crushed
4 oz soft, dark brown sugar (muscovado)
400 gr condensed milk
4 small bananas, chopped
300 ml double (thick) cream, whipped lightly
First of all grease an 8inch loose bottomed cake tin and then mix the melted butter with the crushed biscuits.
Put this mixture into the tin and flatten it so that it coats the bottom of the tin and the sides up to 1½ inches, evenly.
Put in the fridge to chill while making the filling.
Put the sugar and the butter in a pan and melt the butter over a low heat, stirring constantly until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, then slowly add the condensed milk and continue stirring.
Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring continuously and when it starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat.
Pour the mixture into the base and chill for at least an hour.
Just before you are ready to serve the pie, mix the bananas with the cream and pile on top of it.
You can also add walnuts to the cream and top it with grated chocolate or drizzle melted dark chocolate over it. Delicious!
This has Taste and is a Treat.