When it comes to bananas, Bermuda residents will agree bigger isn’t always better. Locally grown bananas are much smaller than those imported, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in flavour.
Although there are many varieties of bananas grown on the Island, often in backyards, the most common and popular varieties are the Dwarf Cavendish and the Grande Naine.
The Dwarf Cavendish banana is a banana cultivar originally from Vietnam and China. The name ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ is in reference to the height of the pseudostem which is a false stem made of the rolled bases of leaves, which may be 6 to 8 feet tall, not the fruit (which are medium sized). Cavendish bananas are named in honour of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire. While on an exploratory mission in Asia, the Duke’s gardener collected a specimen of banana. Upon his return to the Duke’s estate in England, he successfully grew and propagated cultivars in greenhouses, and before long the Cavendish banana was available commercially worldwide.
The mature height of the Dwarf Cavendish makes it stable, wind-resistant, and easier to manage – perfect for Bermuda’s windy winters. The fruits of the Cavendish bananas range from about 6 to 10 inches in length, and are thin skinned. Each plant can bear up to 90 fingers.
Introduced to Bermuda in 1616, bananas have long been a part of traditional Bermudian cuisine and often accompany our national dish of codfish and potatoes. Other favourite dishes include Banana Bread and Banana Fritters (flambé with Black Rum of course!).
Nutritionally, bananas are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They are a good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin B6.
Bermuda bananas are not just for eating – for years local artisans have used dry banana leaves to make Bermuda Banana Leaf Dolls. Some people like to use fresh green banana leaves to wrap meat as it’s cooking to make it more tender, and some caterers and restaurants use the leaves for displaying food. Banana peels, like the fruit itself, are rich in potassium – an important nutrient for both you and your garden. Many gardeners cut up the peels and use them as plant food around roses, staghorn ferns and other established potassium loving plants. Additionally, with their high content of potassium and phosphorous, whole bananas and peels are welcome additions to the compost pile.
With so much sweet flavour and variety of uses, Bermuda bananas definitely get our vote as the top banana!