Lady finger bananas make it to the list of the most popular exotic banana varieties thanks to their unique creamy, sweet taste. Their popularity is also due to their low oxidation levels, as they don't turn brown immediately after cutting them.
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What is a Lady Finger Banana?
A lady finger banana is a diploid cultivar of the (Musa acuminata) banana. It is thin-skinned, cigar-shaped, and smaller than a Cavendish banana. A mature lady finger banana grows 3-5 inches (7.5-12.5cm) long and about 0.5 inches (1.25cm) in diameter.
The lady finger banana also goes by the names sugar banana, baby banana, dwarf lady finger banana, and fig banana.
Both regular and dwarf varieties of the lady finger banana plants exist, and they thrive in tropical and subtropical climates. The dwarf varieties of the lady finger banana trees make excellent indoor plants.
The fruits have a creamy, sugary taste that melts like honey on your tongue. This heavenly taste makes lady finger bananas ideal for making smoothies, fruit salads, banana puddings, banana foster, and baked goodies like banana bread.
The History of Lady Finger Bananas
Although lady finger bananas now grow in different parts of the world, history has it that they are native to Southeast Asia, mainly in Taiwan and Indonesia. Some cultivars of lady finger bananas also call Australia and Ecuador home.
Cultivation of lady finger bananas spread outside Southeast Asia and Australia from the 14th century when the international banana trade began. The lady finger banana is now grown in various countries, including the US, UK, and Canada. It is also the second-popular banana variety in Australia.
What Does a Lady Finger Banana Taste Like?
You’ll go “bananas” after tasting a ripe lady finger banana, as it has a distinct sugary flavor. It is also sweeter and creamier than a Cavendish banana. So it’s no wonder that it’s fondly called the sugar banana.
When raw, lady finger bananas have a dry and starchy taste. However, ripe lady finger bananas add a sugary flavor to cooked dishes.
How to Tell When Lady Finger Banana is Ripe
To check if a lady finger banana is ripe and ready to eat, follow these guidelines:
|Lady finger bananas turn greenish-yellow to bright yellow when ripe. You’ll know that the fruit is fully ripe when it starts to have dark or brown flecks. Overripe lady bananas will be completely brown.
|A ripe and ready-to-eat lady finger banana is sugary, while underripe bananas are less sweet and starchy.
|When ripe, lady finger bananas get a creamy consistency and are easy to peel. Unripe sugar bananas are hard to peel and have a slightly waxy texture.
|Fresh ripe lady finger bananas have a sweet floral smell. If it has a faint or no scent, the banana is underripe. Avoid lady finger bananas with a fermented or moldy odor because they could be unsafe to eat.
|Ripe lady finger bananas are firm when fresh. They become softer as ripening continues and will be mushy if overripe.
Can I Eat Raw Lady Finger Bananas?
Yes, they are safe to eat raw. You can eat unripe lady finger bananas if you have diabetes since the fruit has a low glycemic index. And they’re believed to help in weight loss.
You can also eat raw lady finger bananas when you have a runny stomach, as they relieve gastrointestinal (GIT) diseases. The high potassium content in these unripe bananas helps regulate your body’s electrolyte balance.
Cooking with Lady Finger Bananas
Here’s how to prepare lady finger bananas before cooking:
- Wash your bunch of bananas under running water. It’s essential to remove any dirt or debris from the bananas before you cook them.
- Remove the peel. Use your fingers to peel off the skin. It will be easier to peel ripe lady finger bananas than unripe ones. So, you can use a knife to remove the skin in raw lady finger bananas.
- Cut the lady finger bananas into halves or small pieces. But you might require them whole in some dishes; for instance, when you mash them.
Lady finger bananas are popular in traditional Malaysian, Thai, and Cambodian cuisines. They are excellent additions to sweet and savory meals, including desserts, smoothies, and rice dishes.
Some delicious dishes featuring lady finger bananas include:
Lady Finger Banana Bread: What to do with your overripe lady finger bananas? Bake a yummy lady finger banana bread, and your breakfast is sorted! You’ll also love this bread’s super-moist, buttery texture for a few days. Try adding in candied grapefruit peel for interesting bitter notes!
Nom Ansom Jek (Khmer traditional banana cake): This Cambodian dish is a popular snack during celebrations. It is prepared with sticky rice and lady finger bananas wrapped in banana leaves. And you either steam or boil it for 1 to 3 hours after wrapping it before it’s ready to eat.
Chestnut Flour Pancakes with Lady Finger Bananas: This is a hearty and easy-to-prepare breakfast meal featuring sugar bananas. Plus, you only require a few ingredients like chestnut flour, eggs, milk, and lady finger bananas. For a delicious treat, serve hot and top with honey or roast almond ice cream.
How to Store Lady Finger Bananas
Keep fresh, ripe lady finger bananas on the counter at room temperature, and they will last about seven days. For fully ripe bananas, wrap them in newspaper and store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
To preserve them for longer, peel or puree lady finger bananas and transfer them into an air-tight container. Then, you can freeze them for up to three months.
Nutritional Benefits of Lady Finger Bananas
Despite their small size, Lady finger bananas contain nutritional elements, including vitamins and minerals.
Lady finger bananas are a good source of potassium, vitamins C and B5, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. The fruit also contains traces of vitamins A, E, and K. The minerals in these sugar bananas include manganese, magnesium, calcium, and zinc.
Potassium is an electrolyte that helps regulate the amount of fluid in our body cells. Hence, eating lady finger bananas (raw or ripe) will keep your blood pressure in check, preventing stroke. Potassium also reduces the risk of osteoporosis (bone disease) and kidney stones.
The vitamins and other minerals in lady finger bananas are good for skin and eye health. For instance, vitamins A and E boost your eyesight.
The dietary fiber (prebiotics) in lady finger bananas helps improve your gut health. They feed the bacteria that enhance digestion and prevent bloating.
Where to Purchase Lady Finger Bananas
You’ll find lady finger bananas in grocery stores that sell exotic fruits all year round. They’re also available in farmers’ markets and online stores like Specialty Produce.
If your house is in a tropical climate, you can plant these bananas in your backyard for a consistent fruit supply. Select a well-protected area to avoid wind damage.