If you've only eaten bananas in the Continental United States and Europe, odds are good that you've only had one kind of banana. But if you've had bananas in Southeast Asia or Hawaii, you may have run into a banana that's shorter and tarter, less sweet and perfume-y: an apple banana. In the age of pink pineapples and pluots, that might sound like the newest fad hybrid fruit, a cross between an apple and a banana. In fact, apple bananas, or Latundan bananas, are just a varietal of the fruit in the same way that Pink Lady and Red Delicious are varietals of apples. They're rich and just a touch tangy, a whole different ballgame than their cousin, the Cavendish banana, which is likely what you've been eating on your cereal.
Does it sound weird to you that there are dozens of different kinds of grapes and apples, but basically just one available banana in the grocery store? That's because 47 percent of bananas grown worldwide are the Cavendish varietal. Companies like Chiquita Banana grow the Cavendish banana because it's the one that's easier to transport, and has a longer shelf life. It gained prominence in the 1950s after Panama disease decimated Gros Michel, the varietal that had previously been the principle export. But there's a whole world of bananas out there. Apple bananas are common in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, as well as Hawaii. There are plantains and red bananas and even a Goldfinger banana, if you happen to be in Honduras.
Unfortunately, most of the US isn't an ideal banana-growing climate, so we have to settle for the Cavendish in a lot of cases. But check out your local Indian, South American, or Filipino grocery store and see if you can spot a banana that looks about half the size of the kind you've got at your local chain. Odds are that you've found an apple banana. And if you do, you should buy one and eat it. It's delicious, and it'll change your whole outlook on the fruit. That's bananas.