Hi there! My dad recently sent me this video, which inspired me to do a post:
As you can see, bananas are surprisingly interesting. Here in Costa Rica, they’re much more commonly grown on the Caribbean coast, which isn’t as visited by tourists as the Pacific coast. It’s a shame, since it’s a beautiful area, but it’s also more difficult to get to. And I suppose that also makes it more of a hidden gem. But you can also find bananas throughout the rest of the country, including in our own back yard here in the mountains:
It’s hard to see at first glance, but there’s actually a squirrel who’s stealing our bananas in this picture.
I know that among different dialects of Spanish, bananas and plantains have different names and characteristics, so it’s all a bit confusing. Also, for some reason, what I’d call a “banana” is sometimes called banana here, but also sometimes banano. Who knows.
I’m not a botanist or anything, but I think I remember reading that bananas trees are actually a type of glorified grass. And if you see a cross-section of the trunk thing, you see that may be true. It’s porous and has little chambers, and it grows incredibly fast. It also looks really weird:
The main problem seems to be that you need to cut them all down at the same time, and they’re usually not ripe yet (if you do wait till they’re ripe to cut them down, they get eaten by bugs, birds, and apparently rogue squirrels). And when they do ripen, they all get ripe at once, and you’ve got to figure out what to do with a hundred bananas.
I often give some away, make banana cakes and banana bread, and of course eat them. I also found that if you peel them first, you can freeze a bunch of them in a bag and take them out a few at a time to make smoothies. Tasty! And they’re also great for babies, of course. My kid is with me right now and when he saw these pictures, he said “Na-na-na!” Close enough, kid!
There are also lots of plantains and other banana-related fruits around here. This is a racimo (a bunch or cluster) of small bananas called guineos that I got in our yard.
Wow, our yard and the Formerly Crappy Casita look like crap here. What a difference a few years and some paint can make.
Guineos are hard like plantains, though, so you have to cook them to eat them. Some people put them in soups or a broth with bits of pork liver and skin, but I don’t like that too much, honestly.
Plantains (platanos) are good, though. Here they’re usually cooked in some oil and have a sweet taste, so they’re often served with breakfast, which is usually gallo pinto (rice and beans). You’ll also often find them as a kind of dessert with a casado, which is like a combo meal for lunch.
I don’t have a better picture of a casado, but this one will have to do. It was a great meal, but you can hardly see the plantains (on the right). I do like the picture, though, since it’s a good illustration of what a traditional, typical Costa Rican meal at a cafe (called a “soda” here) may look like. I especially think the combo of spaghetti with rice is funny. And I’ve not even mentioned that the meat here is actually beef tongue, which is surprisingly delicious and tender.
You can also find them sliced thin and fried to make plantain chips, which are pretty tasty, especially with lemon and salt.
Angela came up with the great idea of putting some fried plantains with vanilla ice cream!
Finally, you’ll also find banana leaves in cooking, but more as a container or plate. Some traditional restaurants still serve food on banana leaves, and the leaves are used to wrap up tamales.
I’ve never made Mexican tamales, but they’re pretty different from Costa Rican ones. I think you have to cook Mexican tamales upright since they’re in corn husks that can spill open, but banana leaves are maybe more durable, since you can wrap them up and toss them in boiling water and they come out fine.
Making a tamal.
A big pot of tamales, in this case for Father’s Day. Here, tamales are eaten for many special days and celebrations.
Angela taking a piña of tamales out of the pot. A “piña” refers to a “pair” of tamales, but don’t ask me why they use the same word as “pineapple” for “pair” in this context.
Well, that’s about all I have to say about bananas, but I’d be happy to hear any comments, ideas, or recipes you may have. Thanks for reading!