I’ll admit without any hesitation that the banana plant is my favorite plant. So much, that I had planted one in my shared community garden, even though my master gardener did not recommend it for reasons I came to know only later.
When it started growing tall, folks that run the community garden objected saying it was creating a shade that was not good for the other plants to grow under. They wanted me to get rid of it, but instead I dug it out one day (all 3.5 feet of it) by myself, put it in a large pot, shoved it into the trunk of my car and drove it home (it was very messy – I had to do a lot of cleaning later, but it was worth it).
I dug a hole in my backyard, stuck the plant in there, added some soil and literally forgot about it. Now, in just 3 months, it is almost 5 feet tall and growing with abandon – no fertilizer, no insecticides. Guess, the tropical Florida weather helps.
The reason this is my favorite plant is that not only is it so easy to grow in warm weather areas, but almost every part of it has a use. The leaves are used to serve meals on, in South India – this is still a very active practice at restaurants and weddings. Raw bananas are cooked – there are curries (check out our Raw Plantain Curry), chips, fried bananas, you name it. The stem is used in recipes as well – check out our Banana Stem Curry recipe). Even the banana flower is cooked – check out our very delicious Banana Flower Curry. And of course, you know the banana fruit. So delicious and healthy!
Can you think of any other plant that is so versatile? Probably not. Well, maybe the coconut tree (the fronds are used to cover roofs, the trunk is dug-out to use as a canoe, and of course, the versatile coconut is used in a myriad ways, including the water). Spent coconut shells make for great artifacts too. More details on another post…
Baked Raw Banana Nuggets
My mom makes a fried version of this recipe and I can’t get enough of it when I visit India. She makes it at least twice during my typical 10-day visit. Yes, fried stuff is not great for health, but the occasional indulgence is OK. Now, I wanted to have this more often, so I decided to make it as healthy as I possibly could, without sacrificing the taste. I did all the prep work and then instead of frying it, I decided to make use of my oven to bake it.
It took me a few trials to get the right temperature, duration etc. but I finally nailed it, so I’ll share this version with you. I must confess, it is not as delicious as the fried version, it is pretty close and most importantly, much healthier. Worth the compromise, right?
The Flours Used in the Recipe:
Chickpea flour is made from dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and is also commonly known as garbanzo flour, gram flour, and besan. Chickpea flour is a staple of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cuisines. Naturally gluten-free, it’s also high in protein, iron and fiber.
Rice flour is a great substitute for wheat flour, since most wheat flour contains gluten — a protein that can irritate the digestive system or worse for anyone who is gluten intolerant. On the positive side, it’s high in fiber and may protect the liver. If you can find sprouted variety, go for it.
Both flours are available online or in any ethnic grocery store.