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|Food Buzz: History of Bananas|
Saba bananas grow in giant bunches at the top of a tall central stem on large banana palms. Once bunch of Saba bananas can weigh up to 80 pounds. Each ‘hand’ containing up to 20 angled fruits. They are shorter and thicker than a common banana, with a blockier shape and sharply angled sides. Their size ranges anywhere from 7 to 13 centimeters long depending on maturity. Saba bananas are often harvested while still green though they will mature from green to a deeper yellow color. They have a thick peel, which helps protect them during any shipment. The flesh is white and dense, with a starchy consistency, though it is not as firm as a plantain. Saba bananas offer a rich flavor profile, developing a taste somewhat like a sweet potato when cooked. When ripe they are slightly sweet with hints of citrus and peach.
Saba bananas are available year-round.
Saba bananas, botanically classified as Musa acuminata x balbisiana 'Saba,' are considered a sub-group of bananas that contains many different named varieties such as Praying Hands and Cardaba. Known as Sweet plantain, Compact banana, and Papaya banana in English, Saba bananas are a popular cooking variety used and known around the world by different names. In Filipino they are known as Sab-a or Kardaba, Kluai Hin in Thai, Opo'ulu or Dippig in Hawaiian, Pisang Abu and Pisang Nipah in Malaysian, Pisang Kepok in Indonesian, and Biu Gedang Saba in Javanese.
Saba bananas are very high in starch, offering the same amount of carbohydrates as a potato. They are an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C, and contain dietary fiber and iron. Eating Saba bananas raw will ensure the most nutritional benefits.
Saba bananas are primarily used as a cooking banana versus a fresh eating variety. In their immature, green state, they are cooked like a vegetable and used in savory dishes. The sweetness will neutralize any spicy foods. Unlike plantains, they can be eaen raw when mature and yellow. Another popular way to eat them is peeled, sliced and caramelized, then topped with cinnamon, raisins, vanilla and powdered sugar. They can be sliced, simply sautéed in butter and topped with syrup. Use Saba bananas for ice cream or baked goods. Another popular use for Saba bananas in the Philippines is for making ketchup, or banana sauce, an alternate to tomato ketchup. It is made using vinegar, spices, and sugar, and some recipes call for chile peppers. It is often mixed with rice or served with meats or chicken. Store Saba bananas at room temperature until ripe. Refrigerate fully ripened fruit for a few days.
In the Philippines, Saba bananas are commonly found growing throughout the Southeast Asian islands and the Indonesian archipelago. They are sold as street food in most towns and cities, particularly as “banana-Q”. Whole Saba bananas are cooked in a wok with butter over high heat. Brown sugar is added while they cook, coating the bananas in caramel. The outside offers a candied crunch, while the inside remains soft and melting. They are served on a stick, sometimes up to two or three at a time. The street food treat is inexpensive and filling.
Saba bananas are native to the Philippines, and are known as Pisang Kepok in Indonesia and Kluai Hin in Thailand. They grow prolifically throughout the islands. Banana plants will only fruit once per pseudostem, but as long as the main plant remains intact it will develop a subsequent stem that will eventually bear fruit. Saba bananas are considered one of the pillars of Filipino food. The Philippines is the second largest producer of bananas, after India. Saba bananas grown in the Philippines are not typically exported. Outside of Southeast Asia, Saba bananas are grown in Hawaii and exported to the United States.
Recipes that include Saba Bananas. One is easiest, three is harder.