My last few posts discussed things that are unique to a particular destination. There’s one item in particular I can’t stop thinking about. I haven’t really stopped since May. It deserves an entire post.
The apple banana.
“What’s an apple banana?” I asked the young girl manning the fruit stand on the side of the Road to Hana. She had offered me a sample of the squat fruit while I browsed the tropical fruits, baked goods, and homemade jams.
Roadside fruit stands are a staple in Hawaii. Many of them are run on the honor system. Shove a buck in the lock box and choose a mango or some bananas from the unattended bushel at the curb. The fruit at these stands come from the trees in people’s yards. Everyone in Hawaii is a farmer, it seems.
Stopping at a fruit stand to buy banana bread was a thing not to be missed, according to the destination experts on TripAdvisor. I, ever obedient to their sage council, obliged, shrieking “Pull over!” as we rounded one of the 520 curves on the Road to Hana and an open fruit stand popped suddenly into view. I bought a loaf from this young girl and accepted a fresh slice of apple banana from the blade of her knife, as well.
An apple banana, it turns out, is what a banana ought to be. It’s a dream. It has a lighter, airier texture. It’s not chalky or tough, as bananas in America can tend to be. It’s also sweeter, like an apple, hence the name. They grow all over in Hawaii, on farms and in backyards. They are abundant and cheap. I bought them in volume at many a Hawaiian farmer’s market for a buck a bunch.
I returned to the car with my loaf of banana bread and a plastic knife, which allowed me to appear somewhat civilized as I devoured the loaf a slice at a time instead of mawing it out of the palms of my hands a la Cookie Monster.
Banana bread made with apple bananas is superior to banana bread made with regular old bananas. Better ingredients yields better results. That’s just logic. On this, day two of our eleven day trip, I vowed to eat as many apple bananas and as much banana bread as I could. And I did. (In fact, if you recall my obsession with Tropical Dreams Banana Split Ice Cream, you would be correct to assume that it was made with apple bananas.)
Apple bananas are nowhere to be found in Chicagoland. And they don’t get to come home with you on an airplane either. I’ve found “baby bananas.” I’ve been lured by “manzano bananas.” But they are false idols. There is only one true apple banana. And they are far, far away.
They can, like most things, be ordered online—at $40 a bunch. Tough to swallow after handing a buck to an old lady for a bunch she grew in her backyard.
I took a photo of the ingredients list of a loaf of banana bread made by Sarah, who lives on a goat farm on Kauai and bakes all day (I hate her). It is my life goal to replicate this most wonderful item in my own kitchen, but it cannot be done without apple bananas.
Since I’m too cheap to order online and not rich enough to fly to Hawaii every year for a fix, I’m counting on Santa to leave a bunch under the tree for me.