5.13.2012

go bananas for tomatoes

banana chunks for freezing

Never mind that the Cavendish bananas Americans know and love are dying out since we've bred and cloned them for green mass transport, not variety of flavor and texture, leaving them helpless against crop-rampaging banana fungus. Yesterday morning was about prepping tomato starts. What have bananas to do with tomatoes? Well, last year, the green-thumbed neighbor used a known gardener's trick on our tomatoes, and we grew bushels from just one raised bed. Since the year before, without her help, two fully planted beds only ripened a tiny tomato variety the size of petite peas, all the regular-sized tomatoes still hard and green by fall, I unscientifically attribute last year's bounty to the banana trick, specifically chopped banana peels mixed into the soil during planting.

But before I get to that part, let's review the banana-prep process. First, I chunked the three ripe bananas I had on hand and stuffed them into half-pint Kerr jars (this size, by the way, is hard to find when thrifting). These went into the freezer to await blending into future smoothies, using strawberries from the bed downstairs.


chopped banana peels

Then I cut up the banana peels, mine and several from Gardener M. But wait. Hang on. On one of the Dole-branded Guatemalan banana peels, I found the advertising label below: "Turn me into yonanas / Looks and tastes like soft serve ice cream / yonananas.com." This, my friends, reminds me of a thrifting story.


yonanas ad

A few months ago, at the Powell Goodwill with Jeff, I noticed in the electronics aisle a Yonanas box. I did a double-take and picked it up, not because I'd heard of Yonanas, but because I had seen this popular post on Apartment Therapy's Kitchn blog announcing that frozen bananas, when puréed, turn the creamy texture of soft-serve ice cream. Jeff opened the box (a Target return), checked that all the parts were there, including the instructions, and decided from the slight traces of dried banana that this item had probably been used once. Maybe the customer realized this had been a Yo-rip-off. I hadn't tried making one-ingredient "ice cream" but was fascinated that somebody had created such a ridiculous single-use kitchen product. (Hello, potential Yonanas buyer, don't you already have a food processor or blender in the house?)

So this morning, after all the build-up writing about Yonanas, I just had to try this for myself, food-processed single-ingredient "ice cream." I used the small Black & Decker HandyShortcut food processor I've had for twenty years. However, the blade sits high, so I had to use two of the frozen bananas to do any puréeing. They're right, though. Frozen bananas do turn all creamy and whipped like gelato. I wasn't getting mine to mix well because one half-pint of bananas was packed more tightly than the other, so I added a little water, but I should have just given it more time to thaw some. (Patience, patience.) I also added some crunchy peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. The minutes of friction, plus the added water, melted down the "ice cream" too much, so I stuck it in a dish in the freezer for a while.


PB-and-banana frozen treat

It tastes like the frozen nondairy treat it is, sweet and cold, minus the depth and richness of Häagen-Dazs or the vanilla, fresh peach, or strawberry homemade ice cream my family made with rock salt and ice in our whining electric tub on summer evenings. There's no substitute for cow cream.

Last fall, again on an outing with Jeff, I thrifted at the Clackamas Goodwill on a sale-sticker day an older but virtually unused 1.4-quart Donvier ice cream maker for $5 (need I mention I saved $55 if bought new and in a smaller size?), complete with box and instructions, the kind for which one freezes the insulated metal canister, stirs the ingredients a few times with the handle/paddle, waits, and then—homemade ice cream, easier on the ears than the rock-salt or blender methods. I used a pint Donvier years ago and they work well, so I'll be experimenting with ice cream and sorbet flavors this summer. The only problem will be freezer space.


tomato cages, pre-planting

Until then, I'll be freezing my tongue on banana guts, watching the tomatoes grow. They're each now caged and seated atop a handful of chopped banana peel, tucked into beds amended with horse manure and chicken dung. This is city livin' here in Portland.


tomato starts

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