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  • Natalie

Know your bananas: 30 Varieties grown in the Seychelles

After living here for a while I really started missing familiar fruit and vegetables. I never really bothered buying things like broccoli because it is imported and costs a fortune. I embrace our lives here in trying to use the local fruits and vegetables and learn to prepare them in traditional ways. During the coronavirus lock down the variety of vegetables and fruits thinned down. I found myself buying more and more bananas and plantains as this is a staple food here. By the way, plantains are a type of banana, something I did not know before moving to the Seychelles.

There are so many kinds of bananas grown in the Seychelles, about 30 varieties, and we are going to discuss eight of these varieties. The reason I chose these eight varieties is because I see them the most frequently therefore, they are the ones you might encounter on your travels in the Seychelles. The ones which we will discuss are as follows (spelled out in creole): Banann Gros Misel, Gabou, Fig, Kare, Miyonn, Senzak, Ostrali and Rouz.

Some other varieties I have heard of are Papay, Rezen, Msye (which I believe is very similar to the fig banana), Detab, Mil, Madagascar, Tahiti, Bar Bar, Zenzli, Blan, Dezire, Nwar, Galega Simwe, Tyotyo and Bannann Zara. Bananas are very popular among Seychellois and are a mainstay in their dietand are used in various ways.

Gros Misel: This variety is known for being much larger than the average bananas, giving it the nickname “Big Mike.” The reason this was a popular banana is because it has a robust skin combined with a sweet flavor making it popular amongst farmers.

Gabou: They are part of the cavendish variety. Cavendish for your information are the common variety. I find that these bananas are usually sold green, and that you can use them in any phase from green, to yellow, to brown. There are three types of gabou. They are gabou zean, gabou moris and gabou nen.

Miyonn: Translated as “mignon” or cute, these teeny tiny bananas make an ideal snack for your kids. They are about a ¼ of the size of a cavendish. Just make sure they don’t get squashed in your handbag! I actually find these slightly too sweet, but my children love them.

Fig: These are fatter than cavendish and stubbier. They are about half the size of a cavendish banana. Another sweet variety that is commonly found on roadside stands. The bannan Msye looks very similar to this variety and is also a commonly sold roadside banana.

Senzak: The the most sought after local plantain banana. Plantains are easily distinguishable from other bananas as they are larger, longer and heavier and usually sold green. The flesh is somewhat firmer than other bananas and is much less sweet when raw, which is why it is always cooked. Senzak plantains can taste quite sweet once they turn brown and are excellent in banana cake.

Kare: Another plantain variety you will commonly find on the Seychelles. It is easily distinguishable due to it have 4 ridges giving it a rectangular look. Plantains are treated more like a vegetable than a fruit and can be prepared in various ways depending on their stage of ripeness.

Ostrali: We ate these for breakfast this morning, heated in a cast iron pan with a bit of ghee, salt and cardamom. I highly recommend.

Rouz: The name comes from the red colour of the skin. These are my personal favourite. I love the way they look and when they are soft, they are just sweet enough for me and they have a creamier texture. The overall size is similar to the Cavendish banana. They also are said to contain more nutrients than their yellow counterpart as they contain higher levels of Vitamin C and B6.

Worldwide there are more than 500 banana plants. Wow! so this is really just a beginning for my newly developed passion for bananas. In the Seychelles, the popular methods of eating bananas are:

Banana cake: Mashed and blended bananas in a cake mix which is baked and served as a snack or for a tea party.

Bananas in coconut milk (Kat Kat Banann): which is usually done using very ripe plantains, cooking them down with coconut milk, sugar and vanilla. There is also another version which uses cooked green bananas, usually plantains, mixed with coconut milk and fish preferably…a “latet karang” (carangue fishhead).

Ladob (2 ways) : The dessert version usually consists of ripe plantain and sweet potatoes (but may also include cassava, breadfruit or even corossol) boiled with coconut milk, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla in the form of a pod until the fruit is soft and the sauce is creamy. The savory version usually includes salted fish, cooked in a similar fashion to the dessert version, with plantain, cassava and breadfruit, but with salt used in place of sugar (and omitting vanilla).

Bananas beignet: bananas blended up with flour and oil creating a batter, frying them and dipping the deep-fried donut in sugar.

Banana flambé: Halved ripe bananas are cooked in caramelized sugar and then covered with flaming rum sauce.

Banana chips: Raw bananas are thinly sliced and either shallow or deep fried making it crunchy.

What is your favourite Seychelles banana and how do you like it?

Hope this article helps to stretch your knowledge on bananas and maybe even encourages you to try a different banana. The sad thing is when I think of supermarkets back home there is just the one sad cavendish variety. Sometimes people just want what they know, the old familiar and that is how we slowly lose all these amazing varieties. Variety is the spice of life after all!

Also, check out our blog on banana peel bacon. Yummy!!

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