Bananas and Jamaican Cuisine


The Banana plant can be found in almost every tropical country of the world. Bananas are some of the most consumed food worldwide, and Jamaicans eat their fair share of this delicious and versatile fruit. There are many different varieties of bananas – in Jamaica and the Americas, the most popular are the Cavendish and the Plantain varieties.

Banana youngA reddish-purple bud (also known as the heart) grows from the center of the plant, gradually opens and exposes tiered rows of small flowers some of which develop into fruit. Individual bananas are called “fingers”. Each row forms approximately 14 to 20 fingers making up a “hand”.Banana ready for harvestingWhen the hanging cluster of fruit is ready for harvesting, there are usually 7 to 9 hands on what is known as a “bunch”.Bananas green and ripeWhen unripe (green), the Banana can be boiled, fried, or grated and made into a porridge or dumplings.Banana typical Jamaican breakfastThis photo shows a typical Jamaican breakfast – boiled, green bananas with Calalloo and Saltfish (recipe can be found in our Cookbook).Banana BreadBanana FrittersWhen ripe, the Banana can be enjoyed raw as a snack, fried, baked, or used to make Banana Bread and Banana Fritters. (The recipes for both of these desserts can be found in our Cookbook.)

Jamaica has been exporting Bananas to England since the 1920’s. The very popular song, ‘Day-O’ (‘The  Banana Boat Song’) is a traditional Jamaican folk song written in the 1950’s from the point of view of a night-shift wharf worker loading bananas onto a ship bound for England. Daylight has come, the shift is over and the worker wants the tally man (the person who keeps a record of the number of bunches loaded by each worker), to give him a record of the total number of bunches he loaded for the night, so that he can go home.
Here are a few verses of this catchy and interesting song. Many different versions have been recorded throughout the years; and the lyrics and music can be found on our Video page here.

Day-o! Day-ay-ay-o!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Day! Me say day! Me say day!
Me say day! Me say day-ay-ay-o!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Work all night on a drink a’ rum!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Stack banana till the mornin’ come!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.

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