Arabic: Mauz Musa sapientum; Musaceae (Banana Family)
The banana plant is the world’s largest herb. It is often mistaken for a tree, but does not have a woody trunk or boughs. It springs from an underground rhizome to form a false trunk three to six meters (10–20') high and is crowned with a rosette of 10–20 beautiful, oblong banana leaves.
History credits Arab traders with giving the banana its popular name. Although there are several hundred varieties which differ in taste, color, form and size, Arab traders noted that bananas growing in Africa and Asia were small, about the size of a man’s finger, and so called them banan, which means “fingertips” in Arabic. “Banana” is the singular form.
Bananas are rich in potassium, riboflavin, niacin and dietary fiber. They also contain vitamins A and C and some calcium and iron. Bananas are a quick source of energy.
How to use: In banana-producing countries, vegetables and spices are sometimes wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed. Banana leaves are used as serving plates, as tablecloths and as barriers between a wood fire and a pot. They are even used for thatching roofs and making rope.
In the kitchen: Bananas can be eaten fresh or dried. The dried fruit can be ground into a nutritious banana flour.A very old and traditional breakfast in Makkah is omelet with banana. Masoub, also featuring the banana, is currently a popular Hijazi breakfast dish. Kanafa with banana is a delicious dessert.
Remedies across Arabia: For diarrhea, use cornstarch and water; yogurt; tea leaves; mashed potatoes; bananas.
Did you know?
- Hundreds of banana varieties thrive in the tropics. Bananas grow in Egypt, Yemen, Oman and other Arab countries. In the Nile River, near Luxor, Egypt, local boats sail to Gazirat al- Mauz (“Banana Island”), where visitors can sample fruits from a large banana orchard.
- The banana has been cultivated in India for at least 4000 years. Bananas are widely used in Indian folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.