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Bananas of the most versatile fruits you can buy. They can be found in sweet dishes, savory dishes and salads. And anyway you find them they are delicious.

Bananas have been around for a very long time. The banana is mentioned for the first time in history in Buddhist texts 600 years BC. Alexander the Great discovered the taste of the banana while in the in the Indian valleys in 327 BC. The existence of an organized banana plantation can be found in China as far back as 200 AD. In 650 AD, Islamic conquerors brought the banana back to Palestine, and eventually the Arabic merchants spread the bananas all over Africa. It wasn't until 1502 that the Portuguese began the first banana plantation in the Caribbean and in central America.

The banana plant is not a tree, but a giant herb of the same family as lilies, orchids and palms. There are about 400 varieties of bananas. The trunk of a banana plant is made of sheaths of overlapping leaves, tightly wrapped around each other like stalks in a celery bunch.

The word banana is derived from the Arabic meaning 'finger'. Each banana stem consists of 10 to 14 hands each of them carrying from 18 to 20 bananas.
The harvest starts when the banana is still green. Bananas for domestic consumption are cut green. Once cut, the race starts against the clock. From the harvest through the delivery to the shop reseller, there are only 20 days left. The hands are removed, washed, cut in smaller pieces called clusters, packed in cartons, each of those boxes weighing about 40 pounds.

Then of course we buy them and eat them. Of course it is best to wait until the bananas are a nice yellow color to eat them. Eating them while they are still green can cause gastric distress. The banana, when it is still green, is nearly pure starch and very difficult to digest. As the banana ripens the starch turns to sugar, which is why the riper the banana the sweeter it is.

Ok, I am sure I have given you more information than you wanted, so now some recipes.

Banana Peanut Butter Bars

3/4 cup Margarine, softened
1 cup Dark brown sugar, packed
1 Egg
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 large, ripe banana, mashed
4 cup Uncooked rolled oats
1/2 cup Peanut butter, creamy

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, salt, bananas and peanut butter. Stir in the rolled oats. Mix well. Spread in a greased 13 X 9 X 2-inch pan. Bake in a 350 F. oven for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cut into 2 x 1 inch bars. Makes about 4 dozen bars.

Banana Pineapple Cole Slaw

2 cups Cabbage, Shredded
1 cup Carrots, Shredded
8 oz Pineapple, Tidbits Drained *
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon Honey
1/4 cup Pecans, Chopped
1 firm, ripe Banana, Sliced

* Reserve drained liquid.
In a medium bowl, layer cabbage, carrots and pineapple. In a small bowl, combine Miracle Whip, sour cream, honey and 1 T of the reserved pineapple juice. Blend well. Spoon and spread the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate until serving time. Just prior to serving time add sliced banana, toss and serve.

Baked Ham and Bananas

3 1/4 pound Ham
20 Whole cloves
3 Tablespoon Lime marmalade
1/4 cup Soft dark brown sugar
4 Bananas, peeled
1/4 cup Soft light brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes

Put the ham into a pan of water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 hour. Take out of the pan, and remove the skin and fat. Score the top of the ham to form a diagonal pattern. Stud the top of the ham with cloves. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the marmalade and sugar into a pan over a low heat until melted, then spoon on top of the ham. Place the ham on a trivet in a baking pan, and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Put the bananas into a separate roasting pan. Add the sugar, lime juice and zest. Bake one shelf above the ham for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

Cool Culinary Trivia

Every year Americans eat more than 30 pounds of bananas per capita. We import over 15 BILLION bananas every day.

The BLT is still the second-most popular sandwich in the United States (the simple ham sandwich is first).

It takes 100 pounds of milk to make 15 pounds of cottage cheese.

Dos Equis (XX) Mexican Beer was first brewed in 1900 and was originally named "Siglo XX" to signify the new millennium. Now it is simply called Dos Equis "XX".