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Bananas. Food, cooking, fiber, etc...

Quinkan

Les Hiddins
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Banana trees are everywhere, cavendish and lady finger, and afew other varieties. I don't know that anyone is growing Musa textilis here but it's a thriving industry in India and Southern Asia.

I don't have any of my own but further north I used to see wild trees/stands all over the place and in more costal area os SEQ they're common-ish.

I've always known about cooking in leaves, baked green nanas, stem fiber and shelter with leaves (although I'd love to see any take on these uses and I'm sure everyone else would like to see) I have no real idea about fruit/flower stem fibers.

I get the odd bunch of lady fingers from my old man, the latest lot ripened in winter and tasted too starchy for my tastes... Very plaintain-ey. So the bunch hung on the stem out the back here til it went black from top to tail but not too rank.

I then snipped off all the fruit with secateurs, and split the stalk with a pocket knife, couple days later I opened it up properly and started pulling fibers.

Was very easy to pull two foot fibers, as thick or as fine as I wanted. I could twine on the spot but I shredded to 3-5mm strips and dried overnight.

The strands were very easy to twine or plait, very light and soft. Not the strongest but for the ease of manufacture, very useful. You can easily pull single strands for fine twine or thick, spongy strands for instant rope.

I made two strand twine at 3mm or so and plaited "rope" of 5mm x 3mm. Very soft, shiny stuff to work with. Very flexible and easy but has a slight fishy smell.

I haven't tested it before but both fibers held up 5l of water easily. I suspect over time it will weaken or stiffen but...in the short term, as easily worked and used as garden jute or hessian. Very long fibers, easily obtained.

You could try asking our local fruit shop for stems from bunches, otherwise ask a grower. Very good practice material and suitable for kids and newbs to learn with.

Piccies soon,sorry, they're a bit crap.
 

Quinkan

Les Hiddins
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Here's both types of string, and a weight test on the thicker variety. Sorry for pic quality, I can only hold 5l of water up with one hand and take a pic with the other from so far away :D

17eQg.jpg

MQwVy.jpg


I shook hell out of that springwater conatainer, no creaking or snapping. I can do a better lit, longer shot if anyone wants it.
 

Quinkan

Les Hiddins
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and here's a bowline tied hard in the thinner stuff to show how supple it is, and the same 5kg test. Performed well, a little creaking but no giving way at points where I fed in new fibers. Definitely enough to catch a local fish, lash some bush poles, or make a rough bag.

4Pepd.jpg

gbLpg.jpg
 

Aussie Forager CQ

Rüdiger Nehberg
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Great info Q I'm definately going to give some cordage a go from the Banana at some stage! Send some up and we can test it too if your keen.

Have you ever done much with Banana's and water? I have heard that they can be tapped straight into the trunk and fresh water obtained and also cut off at ground level and a well made in the base of the trunk that would fill with fresh water for a time? I have only ever heard and never tried......…
 

Aussie123

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Great pics and very informative. Did you get a shot of the stem too ?

I've not really thought about banana bunch stems, but I don't think we can get them in Victoria !
 

Quinkan

Les Hiddins
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There is a "paper banana" variety grown commercially in India and south Asia, called Musa textilis. It is used to make twine, paper, disposable plates, that kind of stuff. Like a slightly dodgy jute. I've not heard of anyone growing or processing it here but, it's probably a matter of time.

Afcq, I'm building a small collection of string for you to brutalise with your machine, I'm interested in age, pattern and thickness so will be sending you a range of crappy string soon :D
 

Quinkan

Les Hiddins
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Thanks guys.

No I didn't think to get a piccy prior to having a bag of fibers, woops. I'll be seeing the old man this weekend, hopefully snaffle a fresh bunch and I'll document each step. Basically just cut a bunch a foot above the highest hand of fruit and hang it til it's dodgy looking.

I have tried the banana well method, it works alright in tropical areas but in the subtropics or below, no dice. Excellent "fuel" for a solar still but in dry climates the moisture is bound in the cells too much. Worth a shot though, if you needed it. Id probably drop a tree at the rootcrown, lop it below the first leaves, split it, dig out a boat shape. Cover with a leaf and check it tomorrow... All those cut fibers , xylem, phloem etc should yield some moisture.

Overall it's very soft string, easily worked and forgiving. Not the strongest but then strong tends to mean rough here... If you wanted to make some thongs or a hat, banana flower stems are not too bad at all.

Down south you could try your local fruit shops, ask if they get whole bunches. I bet most do for ladyfingers and cut em on site. Tell em you'll take the stalks and I reckon they'd hand em over, especially if you're a regular.

Worth asking just to be able to pull massive lengths of instant twine, beats collecting nettles :D
 

Aussie Forager CQ

Rüdiger Nehberg
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No worries Q, just label it all good and we can do as many as you want.

Great info on the bananas I'll give it a go one day. Interesting with the climate differences, makes sense though, it's never as easy as it sounds!
 

speedy

Malcolm Douglas
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Abaca (M.textilis) aka Manilla hemp... I had a plant growing about 20yrs ago.
I bought it Adelaide from an Asian grocery store in a pot.
They were selling it to people to grow for the leaves as food wrapping.
from memory, there's a clump of plants growing in Adelaide Bot Gardens.

when using banana leaf for wrapping and cooking food in,
run the leaf upside down over a source of heat (fire )
until the waxy coating melts and the colour turns from a dull to very bright green.
this is an indication that the heat has penetrated through the leaf and collapsed many
of the turgid plant cells and becomes very supple and easy to use without splitting.

the leafbades are generally removed from the stiffer midribs.

the outside layer of the midribs can be peeled/sliced off (and heated again if needed)
to be used as a type of string to tie bundles of food in the leaves.

Khao tom mat (Thai) coconut sticky rice with banana or black beans
Tum , Pepes Ikan , Lontong and many other SE Asian foods all use banana leaf to cook in.
But generally , most cultures where bananas are grown will most likely have trad. recipes where they're used.
it was the 'plastic bag' of SE Asia.... throw it away when finished and it would 'return to the Earth'
now there's plastic but habits haven't changed much and that stuff hangs around for ages.

banana pseudostem (the trunk) can be used as a (long) food container/tray etc.

as for using the Banana 'Flower' (inflorescence) as food,
take a large one after bananas have stopped being produced from it.
peel most of the outer bracts until you have the heart with no colour on it (maybe 1/4 to 1/6 the weight of the original 'flower').

slice very finely as you would a cabbage and mix into a typical Thai,
Lao or Vietnamese type salad with a fairly acidic, spicy dressing.

one that would contain fish sauce, maybe fermented shrimp paste,
tamarind or lime juice, sugar, garlic, chilli, black pepper etc.

cooked chicken meat, or prawns, dried shrimp, mung sprouts,
coriander, fresh beans, small eggplant, crushed peanuts, tomato etc.

I don't have a specific recipe , just use what's available that works, but you get the idea.
It's quite astringent so it needs the strong (sour, fishy, sweet, spicy)
dressing to bring balance to it
 

Aussie123

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Thanks speedie, great info.

I've had banana flower before. Definately a delicious addition to an asian salad, thinly sliced and raw.
 
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