Although we’re all familiar with yellow ‘dessert’ bananas, many tropical countries also grow green ‘cooking’ cultivars as a staple carb, commonly used in everyday cooking.
As dessert bananas ripen and turn yellow, their starch converts to sugar, making them soft and sweet. Cooking bananas remain green and starchy; not a million miles away from potato in texture, with their own mild, savoury flavour – think of them as a vegetable, not a fruit.
You may be a bit at a loss as to how to prepare them as if you try to peel them the usual way, they rather stubbornly sit inside their skins. A couple of simple tips will help get you started:
- Firstly, don’t even bother trying to peel green bananas from top to bottom. Instead, cut off the tip at each end and score down one side.
- Prise the skin open and work it away from the flesh all the way around, rather than top down. The skin can be sticky and sappy, so it’s best to wear gloves if you can; avoid getting any on your clothes as the juices can stain.
They make a tasty alternative to potatoes, mashed or fried into chips. These chilli and thyme green banana chips are a crunchy, moreish snack that can be made either with green bananas or plantains – perfect with a cold beer. Green banana mangu is a great alternative to mashed potatoes for dinner and is perfect with some fried or scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Cooking bananas pair well with sweet, aromatic, fiery flavours such as in this green banana jerk stew recipe. Jerk spice is a Jamaican-style spice mix with cayenne pepper, thyme, cinnamon, garlic, and nutmeg. Traditionally used to flavour meat, it also works wonderfully for vegetarian mains.
For an even simpler way to try green bananas, boil them whole (in their skins) in salted water for 20 mins or so, until you can easily pierce the skins with a fork. Slice open, peel and serve the bananas as a Jamaican-style side alongside fish or pork.
Another no-peel idea that works really well is cooking them on a BBQ; just throw whole green bananas straight onto the grill bars, over a medium heat, and cook for about 20 mins, turning often.
They will blacken and burn very quickly, but don’t panic: the tough skin can endure plenty of heat, protecting the flesh inside while it turns from hard and inedible into a soft, starchy mash.
You’ll know they are ready when they give slightly to a squeeze from your BBQ tongs. Split them open and use the flesh to make a simple mash, or scrape it out and serve as a side, garnished with some salt, chilli, oil and lime juice.