The banana originated in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands. Its name is derived from the Arabic word “banan,” which means finger. One of the first plants to be cultivated, the banana bears the scientific name musa sapientum, which means “fruit of the wise men.” There are plenty of flavorful varieties all over the world, including the little sweet bananas, redolent of honey, that I grew up eating in India. The Cavendish banana, named after the seventh Duke of Devonshire, is the most popular grocery-store variety in America.
Many parts of the United States are conducive to banana trees including Florida, California and Texas. It is not uncommon to see clusters of bananas hanging down from trees in backyards. Being partial to the tiny red or yellow varieties that appear occasionally in grocery stores, I was thrilled to pick up an entire cluster of tiny bananas from a young grower at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago. Sweeter and more intense in flavor, it made for a delicious base for an upside-down cake.