Bananas are a healthy, delicious snack, but they are easy to use in baking and cooking as well. Although you may only see a few types at your local store, over 1,000 kinds of bananas exist around the globe. There are both sweet and savory varieties, many of which come in unique colors, flavors, and shapes.
All dessert bananas are sweet but vary in shape, size, color, and flavor. Many are only available in certain countries, but you can find some of them at specialty markets or online. Here are 9 interesting varieties of dessert bananas.
- Cavendish. The most widely exported banana in the world, the Cavendish has a sturdy peel that travels well. Almost all bananas sold in the United States and Europe are this variety.
- Gros Michel. Also known as Big Mike, this was the top-exported banana until much of the crop was wiped out by a fungus in the 1950s. It’s similar in taste and size to Cavendish and still available in some places.
- Lady Finger. A small banana that averages 4–5 inches (10–12.5 cm) long, with thin, light-yellow skin and sweet, creamy flesh. Lady Fingers are sometimes labeled “baby (niño).”
- Blue Java. Also called “ice cream” bananas because they’re said to taste like vanilla ice cream, these have a bluish-silvery peel that turns pale yellow when ripe.
- Manzano. Also called “apple bananas,” these short, chubby fruits have a hint of apple and strawberry. They’re fully ripe and taste best when the skin turns black. Manzano is the most popular dessert variety in the tropics.
- Red. The thick skin of red bananas starts red or maroon but turns yellow-orange when ripe. The flesh is sweet and tinged with pink or orange.
- Goldfinger. This newer variety from Honduras has a sweet and slightly apple-like flavor.
- Mysore. This small fruit is the most important banana crop in India. It has a thin skin and a hint of tartness.
- Praying Hands. You’ll recognize this variety by the two adjacent “hands” that grow fused together, giving the fruit its name. It’s less sweet than other types and has a subtle vanilla flavor.
Cooking bananas, or plantains, are a staple in many parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. They have a neutral flavor and are usually roasted, boiled, or fried. While they can be eaten raw when ripe, they have a softer texture when cooked.
- Orinoco. Also known as “burro,” these are thick fruits with an angular shape and salmon-tinted flesh.
- Bluggoe. This is a large, starchy plantain with a straight shape.
- Fehi. These copper-toned fruits sometimes have seeds. They’re tasty when boiled or roasted.
- Macho plantain. This is the most widely grown plantain in the United States. It’s particularly common in Florida.
- Rhino Horn. The largest of the bananas, Rhino Horn plantains are from Africa and can grow up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) long.