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The Exoticism of Indonesian Banana

Updated on June 9, 2017

In non-banana growing countries like the West, or non-tropical countries in the northern hemisphere of Asia, the banana is an imported food item consisting of only one type green. The green banana. Known here in Indonesia as “pisang ambon” or “pisang ijo” depending on the fruit’s skin color, this type of banana is very common type in the sprawling family tree of the fruit.

The fruit is a familiar sight in the local markets local markets, also along the mountain roads side leading into West Java’s Highlands, the Puncak area. Here, we find bananas of every kind, not only the green banana type which is the most popular for its height nutritional quality.

The pale lemon, or the green velvety skin hides a rich inner core creamy colored banana flesh which is quite sweet against the palate when ripe. Because of the type’s rich contents, the regular green banana has many uses in this country. It is a very adequate alternative for people who are put on a healthy diet doing away with floury foodstuff.

Babies, after reaching the fifth month are in for a diet addition of milk and mash bananas. The banana has for long been a supplemental diet for babies who are still being fed the traditional way. Newer baby diet may have supplanted mash banana or apple mash, or, even other fruit never thought of as baby food before.

The banana has developed other nutritional connotations. From young fruit sweet and salty chips are now a mass production which has grown into a popular consumptive item in the local market.

But apart from the green banana there are uncountable variants known only to farmers. Billed as exotic fruit once by an American writer in the highly culturally Smithsonian magazine, this lesser known bananas have been making inroads in American and Japanese food markets since mid 80s.

Pisang tanduk
Pisang tanduk

One of these exotic banana varieties here called “royal banana” (pisang raja) after its golden flesh that is sweet and floury. Unlike the green banana, this type is of a dry and floury consistency.

Another banana type quite popular among locals, and also coming in the exotic family range, is the “milk banana” or “pisang susu” in the local lingo. Also of the fleshy variety. This fruit has a yellow mottled skin much thinner than that of the “royal” and “green banana”.The milk banana has to be fully ripe before it is fit for consumption, otherwise, it only would not be sweet, but, also would leave acid like flavor on the tongue. These banana types are newer used as an alternative diet like the green banana. Other banana types are only used in local sweets, or as a base ingredient for fritters, Notable in this case is the giant “horn banana” (pisang tanduk) whose flesh is of a sourish quality. Because of that it lends it self quite well for a local sweet dish called “kolak” or “pisang goreng”, the universally known banana fritter.

Next to the giant bananas, there are miniscule bananas carrying such names as “golden bananas” (pisang emas) and the beetle banana (pisang pinang). Both are unbelievably sweet. The only disadvantage is apparently only the size of the fruits. If with the regular banana type one fruit would suffice, drawf bananas have to be consumed by the comb per person. The bananas are at times so small that one is easily swallowed in one bite. Other than that, these bananas become easily the best in flavor of the lot available in the country.

pisang raja
pisang raja

The opposite of flavor of these small sweet bananas can be found in a rare type which appear to grow only on North Sulawesian soil. There known as “pisang goroho”, this banana variety remains bottle green, even when ripe. In the region it has become an alternative for rice with people put on a riceless diet. The fruit is preferably consumed in the unripe stage when it is cut up in rounds and used as a basic ingredient in a local sweet which mixes the cooked banana slices with sugar. When it is used as a replacement for rice, the cooked slices are eaten with side dishes.

pisang ambon
pisang ambon

North Sulawesi’s flora and fauna is known to be a different nature compared with island south of the equator. This almost impalatable dwarf banana refused to bear fruit when it was brought here by a visitor for her garden. Of five young trees, three sucumbed after a time for no apparent reason. Two banana trees reached maturity, looking very healthy and fat but refused to bear fruit.

Another example is a minor citrus type smaller than local lime and known as “jeruk nipis”. In North Sulawesi, one variety appearing as a miniscule orang is growing in abundance in the region. Called by the locals “lemon cui”, the trees of tall shrublike size, are all year round in bloom. Loaded with orange colored fruit the size of giant marbles only. Such trees often resembles festive dwarf mandarin tree at the time of Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.

Indonesia share the banana with other countries. Not too far from home there is Philippines where the green banana has become an export commodity for the country are the country. Other countries with excessive banana cultivation are Latin American countries like Brazil and its neighbors


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    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 9 months ago from malang-indonesia

      Dear, Martie Coetser, thank you very much for coming to this hub. I am so happy to see you again. I am busy with my job as a teacher. But anyway, this my hub still attractive for you. Have a good day.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 9 months ago from South Africa

      The Afrikaans word for banana is 'piesang'. Pronounced: pee-sung - a word that was used by the Malay slaves that were brought from Indonesia to the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 and onward.

      I didn't know there are different varieties of bananas. All of them look the same to me, except some are bigger than others.

      After my father's death, my mother had a craving for bananas. She ate about 10-15 a day. We didn't then know that bananas are indeed a natural anti-depressant.

      Very interesting hub, Prasetio. It was nice to read a hub from you again. Where have you been?

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 9 months ago from malang-indonesia

      Dear, Bronwen Scott-Branagan, thank you very much for coming and give your opinion about banana. Have a good day!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 9 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      We grow bananas here in Australia, too. They're very healthy and nutritious. When we lived in PNG there were some bananas that were so long they were carried on the shoulder like a plank of wood. They were not good eaten raw, but were very good when cooked as a vegetable. Thank you for your interesting hub.