Banana, a popular tropical fruit is widely cultivated in the Kerala districts, under the genus Musa. Kerala, being only one among the several areas, cultivates the plant primarily for its fruit and secondary benefits including fibre and ornamentation uses. The fruit is rich in starch and hence is a surplus source of carbohydrates and energy and is easily digestible. The plant is of the perennial type and flower only once. Hence, it is widely grown in the households.
In Kerala, a wide variety of bananas are cultivated. Ethapazham, Jnali Poovan, Palayanthodan, Chenkadali, Matti Pazham, Poovan Pazham, Thadiyan Kaa, Robusta, and many other varieties are cultivated in Kerala. Being carbohydrate rich, these are often supplemented as energy supplements in food especially in baby foods. In additional to food supplements, a variety of dishes are prepared using bananas. Banana powder porridge is an established baby food in all areas of Kerala. Some of the Popular Kerala-Banana Based Infant Foods are as listed below:
- Pazham nurukku (steamed banana with jaggery)
These are ideal for toddlers above the age of 1yr. This becomes a simple but integral baby food and is prepared by steaming banana/plantain (cut into 2-3 pieces) in a steam cooker with jaggery (50gms boiled in half cup water & strained for impurities). Add ½ tsp ghee and light fry it till it cooks well. The dish is usually served warm. In Kerala, Pazham nurukku is a part of the Onam Sadhya.
- Kerala banana dosa
2 bananas are peeled off, mashed and mixed with dosa batter using a mixer grinder. To this mixture add 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp maida/rice flour, 1 tsp ghee & fine chopped cashews. Stir all together make dosas as usual from the batter.
- Nenthrapazha kurukku (Kerala banana mesh)
Bananas are steamed and the black seeds inside are removed. It is then mashed with a spoon and blended well. A kadai is heated with some ghee and sugar or jaggery until it is melted completely and then the blended banana is added. Then the mixture is cooked and the nenthrapazha kurukku is ready.
- Ghee roasted bananas
Bananas are cut into thin round slices and are fried in a kadai with heated ghee. Sugar is sprinkled on top and is sautéed until the sugar caramelises on the slices. These are usually served as breakfast or as snacks for babies above the age of 1.
- Nenthrapazha pradhaman (Kerala banana kheer)
Nenthrapazha kurukku is made as mentioned above and coconut milk is added to it on a medium flame. Cardamom powder is added. Ghee roasted cashews and kismis are garnished with. This is a quite heavy and is good for toddlers above 2.
Some half-ripe bananas are boiled; seeds are removed and are mashed well. Cashews, raisins, and grated coconut are fried with ghee in a kadai. The mashed banana is stuffed with the filling and is made into a cylindrical shape & sealed to pack it tightly. The unnakayas are deep fried and are served hot.
- Kerala banana cake
2 Bananas, 3 eggs, 10 tbsp powdered sugar and 1 tsp cardamom powder are blended into a fine puree. The blend is cooked under low flame in a saucepan until fully cooked. The banana cake is now ready to be served. This may be given to children above 1 year.
- Kerala banana halwa
Bananas are steamed; black seeds are removed, and blend into a paste. Milk and sugar are added. The mixture is cooked on low flame and continuously stirred until the mixture thickens. The mixture is spread evenly on a greased pan and is garnished with fried cashew and raisins. It is the cooled and cut into any likely shapes. The kerala banana halwa is ready.
Banana is extensively used in Kerala as food. These can never cause cold or cough. It may be directly consumed as a fruit itself or may be decorated into a variety of dishes. Being rich in carbohydrates, it becomes a basic ingredient in baby foods and also in energy supplements & gaining weight in babies.