We Tried 10 Kinds of Local Bananas (Because We Could)
Hawai‘i Banana Source’s variety boxes bring a mix of 26 different bananas to your door. Can you tell the difference between them?
It was a-peeling. We had bunches of fun. Give the idea a hand. OK, now that the puns are out of the way (you were thinking them too, admit it) I have to say for most of my life I only knew about four types of bananas: apple bananas at farmers markets, plantains for cooking, green bananas for pastele stew and what I considered regular bananas, the Cavendish and Williams ones that overflow the bins at most grocery stores.
There are more. Many more. Gabe Sachter-Smith estimates there are more than 3,000 varieties in the world. He grows dozens of Asian, African, Pacific and Hawaiian lines on his Waialua farm and a few months ago, I noticed I could get a variety box from his Hawai‘i Banana Source, delivered by Farm Link Hawai‘i. The farm-to-your-door delivery service had already lured me into buying fruit I had never tasted before (Cashew apples, bad. Jaboticaba berries, delicious). Now, the organic banana variety box offers a rotating selection of six types to try, from a list of 26. I was in.
In two boxes, my family received 10 different bananas ranging from the tiny, creamy rose to the starchy matooke. The Hawai‘i Banana Source information sheet that comes with them offers nine different ways to try its produce, but we opted to eat each raw so we could compare them—I’ll say it—apples to apples.
And that’s where we’ll start, in alphabetical order.
Our usual local buy, these kid-size bananas are always popular with our daughters.
Originally bred in Honduras as a disease-resistant and high-yielding variety, the Goldfinger was tasty, but most notable for the James Bond theme song that played in my head every time someone grabbed it from the fruit bowl.
Another commonly sold banana, the Gros Michel flavor was milder than other types.
I’m still mystified by this East African variety. Hawai‘i Banana Source suggests cooking it when green or eating it raw when ripe. We waited for three weeks, looking for even a hint of yellow. When it didn’t happen, and panic set in because our second variety box had arrived, I cut off the ends, sliced it and boiled the pieces in salted water. Cooked, the texture was somewhere between a potato and araimo without much flavor. My girls wouldn’t touch it but now I’m determined to find a good use for my final hand. I’m hoping a recipe for matooke with beans and cumin would do the starchy fruit justice.
This was my husband’s favorite. The high sugar content results in a fruit that is firm, sweet and with a stronger banana flavor than Cavendish. We’re ordering these again.
This mutation of a Filipino cooking banana is just striking to see, with the individual bananas fused together. It was also one of our favorite varieties, smooth and creamy without the tartness of other types.
The color was striking. Yet ours had a slightly unpleasant metallic or medicinal finish.
Once we were done admiring this miniature bunch—and, in my case, taking photos of it next to everything from a beer can to Airpods for scale—the creaminess of the finger-size fruit made us wish each one offered more than one or two little bites.
The angular shape of the saba makes it stand out from the other bunches. The banana with origins in the Philippines is triangular with defined edges. We enjoyed the fluffy texture with notes of lemon.
Firm, smooth and sweet.
$28.99 when available at farmlinkhawaii.com