There are more than 300 different types of edible banana, but almost all of the commercially grown ones belong to just one type, the Cavendish variety, according to the new Rough Guide to Food (£12.99). This monoculture deprives us of speciality bananas such as the Red Makabu and the tiny Lady Finger and makes bananas more vulnerable to disease, since whole regions are planted with genetically identical stock.
Although bananas are inescapably heavy on food miles, they remain the most iconic food of the Fairtrade movement. They might lack the colour and juice of other winter fruits such as oranges and pomegranate but they have a versatility and comfort factor second to none and are packed with potassium, fibre and the serotonin related B6.
Bananas are a key ingredient for breakfast smoothies or comforting old-school dishes such as banana custard made with fresh vanilla and cardamom pods; banana bread baked with crushed pecans and topped with a lemon syrup; flambé bananas with rum or deep-fried banana and sesame fritters.
Tip: you can freeze ripe bananas to use in cooking at a later date – they will go black in the freezer but taste just fine.