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Going Bananas: Uses for Bananas Around the World

by Meredith Mullins on October 13, 2014

a single banana, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

The multi-talented banana
© Meredith Mullins

Cultural Encounters of the Banana Kind

Q: Why did the banana go to the doctor?
A: It wasn’t peeling very well.

Q: Why don’t bananas snore?
A: Because they don’t want to wake up the rest of the bunch.

Q: What did one banana say to the other banana?
A: You’ve got appeal!

Broccoli: I look like a tree.
Walnut: I look like a brain.
Mushroom: I look like an umbrella.
Banana: Dude! Change the subject.

A priest, a rabbi, and a banana walked into a bar . . .

We can make jokes about this odd shaped fruit until the monkeys come home, but bananas are one of the most useful and widely consumed foods in the world.

Mini bananas from Colombia, representing cultural encounters from around the world and multiple uses for bananas. (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

Mini bananas from Colombia
© Meredith Mullins

The Human/Banana Relationship

The human/banana relationship has been in place for thousands of years (more if you believe the stories that say the banana was the temptation in the Garden of Eden—not an apple, after all).

Bananas are one of the oldest crops of humankind and continue today as a staple in more than 120 countries.

Why?

  • They come in their own biodegradable wrap.
  • They don’t have to be washed.
  • They can be eaten raw or cooked in inventive ways.
  • They offer nutrition and health benefits.
  • The plant offers fruit year-round.
  • Parts of the plant can be art, tableware, toys, or used to make cloth.

Oh, I see. Bananas are the complete package.

Multiple bananas, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world. (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

The popular banana is grown in more than 120 countries.
© Meredith Mullins

Bananas Do Indeed Have Appeal

According to Ryan White, Director of the new documentary “Mondo Banana,” the entire banana plant can be used in one way or another. His film reveals his travel and research discoveries.

“In India the trunk of the banana plant is cooked and eaten as a vegetable in curries.

An entire art form has developed around banana leaves in Thailand.

In China, the root of the banana plant is used in traditional medicine.

There’s an evil banana spirit in Malaysia and Singapore who grants wishes to greedy men, but steals their souls in the process.”

Ten Things You Should Know About Bananas

There is much to know about bananas, but here are ten things to give you a head start.

  1. In both ancient and modern civilizations all over the world, bananas and banana leaves often appear in religious offerings and festivals. They are said to bring prosperity, luck, and the grace of the gods.
    Banana Queen from Thailand, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world.  (Photo © Ryan White)

    A Banana Queen from Thailand
    © Ryan White

  2. Think health! Bananas can combat depression, cure hangovers, help to prevent some types of cancer, whiten teeth, moisturize skin, and help to relieve morning sickness. Their tryptophan, potassium, B-6, antioxidants, and calcium are all good news.
    Fried bananas in a pan, representing cultural enounters and uses of the banana around the world. (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

    Fried bananas
    © Meredith Mullins

  3. Think food! From banana wontons and fried bananas to banana stem curry, banana smoothies, banana chips, banana bread, banana pancakes, and banana splits. Bananas appear in food cultures around the world.
  4. Bananas are officially recognized by the FDA for their ability to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
  5. Bananas are good for digestion. They are high in fiber and rich in pectin and natural antacids, and they produce digestive enzymes to assist in absorbing nutrients.
    BBQ bananas in Thailand, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world (Photo © Ryan White)

    BBQ bananas in Thailand
    © Ryan White

  6. Banana peels can help to relieve the itching of poison oak/ivy or a mosquito bite. Just apply the inside banana peel to the area for 5–10 minutes.
  7. Banana leaves are waterproof and malleable and can be used to make bowls and to create artistic sculptures for a variety of uses.
  8. You can use the underside of a banana peel to shine silverware, clean houseplants, and polish shoes and other leather goods.
    Polishing a shoe with a banana peel, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

    Finally, a shoe polish you can eat!
    © Meredith Mullins

  9. A traditional way to peel a banana is not from the stem side, but from the other side. Just pinch the bottom of the banana, as monkeys do, and the skin can be peeled easily.
    Man pinching bottom of a banana to peel it, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

    When in doubt, eat a banana like a monkey.
    © Meredith Mullins

  10. The common banana, the Cavendish, is fighting Panama disease the world over. Researchers are working to find wild bananas that are immune to the disease and can be bred with the Cavendish to save it.

Thanks a bunch (another banana joke) for reading about cultural encounters of the banana kind. Now . . . let’s go bananas.

Banana shirts in Thailand, representing cultural encounters and uses of bananas around the world (Photo © Ryan White)

Banana lovers (with fan shirts) are everywhere.
© Ryan White

The documentary “Mondo Banana” by Ryan White is screening this weekend (17–19 October) at the Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival.

Thank you to Jerry Fielder for his bananassistance, to Instructables for the fried banana recipe, to Food Matters for information about banana nutrition, and to jokes4us for some of the banana jokes.

Comment on this post, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.

 
Comments:

2 thoughts on “Going Bananas: Uses for Bananas Around the World

  1. Hi Tom,
    Glad you enjoyed it. The banana is an amazing thing.

    Now, I have to go and eat a few more of those delicious fried bananas!

    Meredith

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