Here on Koh Chang, we are surrounded by bananas and eat them nearly every day. Whether it’s at breakfast, topping muesli or porridge or dried or fried as a tasty snack or even pulped in a refreshing ice cold smoothie, the options seem endless.
Bananas grow all over the island, planted up in orchards as the sole fruit or more often, planted as fill between other fruit trees or along the edge of the gardens.
You’ll see too the beautiful big, lushly purple/red flower tumbling down from the stem, edible once washed and served in a salad with a piquant dressing. Even the dark green leaves don’t go to waste as the locals use them to wrap foods, sweets and sticky rice desserts. Look out for these sweets in the waiting lounge in Bangkok if flying down to Trat, but remember – don’t eat the leaf!
Who knew that there were so many varieties? We see them causally laid on makeshift benches for sale. Some are small, like thin fingers and very yellow, others are fatter and creamier coloured but still finger sized and then there are the large ones with thicker skins that are more familiar and even some XXL varieties.
Some are slightly pinkish inside, some types have seeds, some are sweeter, some with a slight crunch.
Thai bananas come in so many shapes, sizes and tastes is a surprise because we so rarely see the varieties in shops in Europe and America. 95% of the world’s exported bananas are the larger, commercially grown, variety called Cavendish.
This is the type which is disappearing, decimated over 5 years by a virulent fungus called TR4 (Tropical Race 4 a variety of the Panama fungus) in South East Asia and Australia. The disease now appears to have spread to Latin America and there is currently no cure, no form of control. Apparently, the disease can remain in the soil for decades.
It has happened before, by the way when the type Gros Miche disappeared from shop shelves in the late 1950s. Ironically the banana growers chose Cavendish as its replacement.
Everyone is hoping to find another variety suitable for commercial growing which is resistant to the new disease TR4 – but so far this has not been the case and some are calling the situation “bananageddon”.
So enjoy those Cavendish bananas while you can as, in the future, you may have to wait until you come to places like Koh Chang to find again this most versatile of fruits.