The principle use of the banana is as a food. They can be
eaten when fully ripe as a sweet fruit, or they can be picked
while still green, cooked and consumed as a starch.
In the Virgin Islands and elsewhere the banana is also used
to prepare a myriad of food preparations such as banana bread,
banana pancakes, bananas Foster and banana daiquiris, to name
just a few.
In addition to their use as a food, the banana also has several
other, somewhat esoteric uses such as:
Bananas plants can be used to roll spliffs
How to make a spliff: (told to me by an experienced spliff-roller
visiting St. John from another island in the West Indies; a gentleman
who wishes to remain anonymous.)
1) The large and heavy leaves
of the banana plant will often break or become damaged by wind,
rain, or just by their sheer weight alone. When this happens,
the leaves dry up, becoming brown and paper-like.
Tear or cut out a section of one of these dried leaves about
two inches wide and the length that you want your spliff to be.
Peel thin strips of the dried brown sections of the outer layer
of the banana stalk, or main stem, and set aside. (The brown,
paper-like leaves, along with the dry, brown layer of banana
stem, are sometimes referred to as banana shak.)
3) Place the substance you wish to roll in the center of the
leaf. Many people prefer what is called a blen rather than using
pure herb. A blen is a mixture of herb and fanta, a tobacco-like
4) Roll up your herb or blen in the dried banana leaf.
the strips of banana stalk, tie the rolled leaf together in three
or four places to prevent the spliff from unraveling.
6) Sit under
a coconut palm and enjoy your spliff.
(Herbs can be smoked for religious or recreational purposes.
Possession of certain herb is illegal in the Virgin Islands and
Bananas can be used to make money
People can make money by selling bananas, but the banana actually
makes money. Because the leaf and stalk of the banana plant contain
a strong fibrous material, bananas are used to make specialty
papers that require strength; papers that will not tear easily
and that are resistant to moisture and water. Papers, made from
or containing fibers from the banana plant, include paper money,
other bank notes and tea bags.
Banana can be used to make beer
In the East African highlands, the banana is an important stable
crop. One variety, called the beer banana, is used to make a
beer-like beverage having a low alcohol content. (The people
of Rwanda hold the world's record for banana consumption, eating
an average of more than a pound of bananas and drinking more
than one quart of banana beer per person each day.)
Banana can be used for first aid
Banana peels are said to have
antibacterial properties. They can be pounded into a poultice
to help draw out or prevent infection, or the peels can be wrapped
directly around cuts and wounds for emergency first aid.
Banana can to prepare earthen ovens
The traditional Hawaiian luau involves the use of an earthen
oven called an imu. Variations of the imu style of cookery can
also be found in the Caribbean.In 1970, I had the privilege of
being invited to participate in the making of a Virgin Islands
style luau held on Jost Van Dyke. I believe the occasion was
to celebrate Foxy's birthday.
The building of the imu was overseen and supervised by a native
of Hawaii, Bobby Cain, who was well known on St. Thomas as a
weaver of palm leaf hats, and island character.
How to make an imu:
1) Dig a big hole about three to four feet deep
2) Make a big fire in the hole using a slow-burning hardwood.
In Hawaii they use koa wood, in the Virgin Island's you could
use cassia, large wild tamarinds or other native hardwoods.
3) When the coals are hot, put rocks on top of them and heat
them until they get white-hot.
4) Remove any large pieces of burning coal and arrange the
rocks to fit evenly in the bottom of the hole.
5) Cover the rocks with cut-up sections of banana stalks and
then cover the stalks with banana leaves
6) Place the food to be cooked on the banana leaves (In Hawaii,
pig is traditionally cooked in this manner, in the Virgin Islands,
pig, goat, fish, lobster, chicken and ground food (yucca, green
banana, yams etc.) are generally cooked together in the imu.
7) Cover the food with banana leaves and cover the leaves with
wet burlap or a wet canvas tarp.
8) Cover with sand until no more steam escapes from the earth.
The ground will feel mildly warm.
9) An imu prepared in the morning will be ready to eat by the
evening. Uncover carefully, making sure no sand gets in the food