May 02

All Bananas on Koh Chang

thailand-banana-flower-koh-chang-orchard We eat bananas nearly every day. With breakfast, topping muesli or porridge, dried or fried as a tasty snack, or a refreshing ice cold smoothie, the options seem endless. They grow all over Koh Chang. There are orchards full of just banana plants but more often they are planted in-between other fruit trees, or along the edge of the gardens, usefully filling-in any available space.

Occasionally you see the beautiful big, lushly purple/red flower tumbling down from the stem and these too are edible, as decoration or in a salad. Even the dark green leaves don’t go to waste, they are used to wrap foods, sweets and sticky rice desserts for baking. Look out for these sweets in the waiting lounge in Bangkok when flying down to Trat en route to the islands, they are served with coffee, very tasty, but remember – just don’t eat the leaf!

thailand-bananas-koh-chang-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. They are packed with healthy goodness, vitamin C, potassium and all, most importantly, delicious.

That 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.thai-sweet-in-banana-leaf-koh-chang There is currently no cure, no form of control and the disease can remain in the soil for decades.

It has happened before, bananas disappeared from shop shelves in the late 1950s. The type called Gros Michel, which used to be the ubiquitous banana of choice was wiped off the fruit’s history map by an earlier strain of the Panama disease. Ironically the Cavendish, was the variety chosen 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 bananas while you can – in the future you may have to wait until you go on holiday to taste this exotic fruit.

And to end on a lighter note, this week, no mention of bananas would be complete without reference to the quick and humorous “Say no to racism” response of Dani Alves, the footballer for Barcelona, who cleverly ate the banana which had been thrown at him as racist abuse, before taking the corner kick. Match result – Barcelona won, 2 – nil. Kudos to Alves.