Find Bananas

Contributed by Carolina del Solar, a Peruvian Farmer

The plots in our small farm are divided by rows of banana clumps. We have about four different varieties. As a boundary between our neighbor, Mrs.Kochi, and our farm, are the huge red plantains; between the yuccas and corn we have alternate clumps of "platano de seda" (these are the typical white-felshed, yellow-skinned creamy bananas you see everywhere), and clumps of platano de la isla, which are small, fat, floury and pink. Closer to the house are the miniatures: platano-manzano, and "manzanitos". The texture between these last two varies somewhat, but both taste of apples.

As bananas first develop they do so downwards and as they get bigger they start to grow upwards. It took me years to notice this. It's at this point that birds will make their nests between the up-turned bananas. We cut down the bunch while still green but fully grown, tie it to a huge tree outside the kitchen and wrap it up with a sack to speed up ripening. Once this happens it's a constant battle with the birds who have clever ways of getting to the bananas before us. Never mind, there's plenty for all.

The creamy yellow ones and the tiny ones we eat just plain or with soda crackers (this is definitely not gourmet but an excellent combination nevertheless).

The plantains we fry, boil, bake or mash to accompany seafood or pork. Sometimes my sister makes "chifles" to sell at the local market. These are paper thin slices of green plantain, deep fried till crisp, and salted. Sort of the banana equivalent of potato chips. We use the banana leaves to wrap tamales for cooking and for covering and protecting the meats during pachamancas. (pit cooking)

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