Bananas are available all-year-round, an indication that the fruit is a favourite source of income for farmers.
Excess production is mainly sold as plantains ‘matoke’ for cooking or ripe banana fruits.
However, farmers continue to experience losses due to poor postharvest handling on the farm and during transportation.
The best way to avoid such losses is by processing bananas into various products to increase their shelf-life and earn more value for farmers.
Banana value addition can be done on the farm using simple methods. Here are the products to make from bananas.
a) Baked banana chips
They are made by baking or deep frying.
Preheat the oven to 175-200°F/80-95°C. The low temperature allows a dehydrating effect as opposed to a real-baking effect.
Remove the peels, then slice the bananas into thin pieces. Make sure they’re all fairly much the same slice width, to ensure even cooking.
Arrange the slices across the baking sheet in a single layer and do not allow them to touch.
Drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice over the top of all the banana slices.
This helps to hold back natural blackening and adds a slight tang.
Place the sheet in the oven and bake for an hour to an-hour-and-three quarters.
Taste after an hour to see if you like the consistency; if not, continue baking.
Baking times may vary depending on the thickness of the slices. Remove from the oven.
For deep frying, heat the oil. Drop in a few slices at a time to deep fry (don’t overcrowd the oil). Use a slotted spoon to add and retrieve the slices.
Set aside to cool. Most likely the banana chips will be soft and oozing but in cooling, they’ll harden up.
b) Banana flour.
Bananas can be processed to make flour, which can either be fortified or used to make nutritious porridge and when mixed with wheat flour, it can be used to make chapati, mandazi and banana cakes.
Remove green bananas from the bunch.
Slice into small pieces with peelings to maintain nutrients found in the peels.
Sun–dry on the rack until 10 per cent moisture content is achieved.
Thereafter, mill and sift and package and store in a closed, dry place.
c) Banana jam
Over-ripe bananas should not be thrown away. The bananas which have a sweet taste, fine flavour and texture can be processed into jam from the kitchen for both domestic use and for sale.
Mash the bananas and put in a sufuria with lemon juice and honey.
Heat the mixture for 20 minutes until it simmers over medium heat and turn it low and stir after every five minutes.
Turn off the heat, let it cool and package in jars and store in the fridge.
d) Banana juice
Banana smoothies are refreshing and tasty.
Put ripe sweet bananas into a blender. Add milk. Cover the blender and run it on low for 10 seconds.
Put orange juice into a small bowl or cup.
Then add honey to the cup, stir and mix. Add honey mixture to the blender and run it low for 30 seconds.
Package and store in the fridge at less than 10°C.
Bananas can also be included into recipes or processed into many other products like biscuits, sweets, wine, beer and sauce.
For farmers to improve their bargaining power, they should organise themselves into growers’ associations which facilitate setting up of factories to process bananas into various products.
There is need for the government to facilitate affordable credit to empower farmers take up banana agribusiness.
Adoption of new technologies such Modified Atmosphere Packaging can be used to control banana ripening to reduce post-harvest losses.
Green bananas packed in modified atmosphere/ modified humidity liners at source can be stored for up to 35 days at 13°-14°C (55-57°F).
Makau is based at the Department of Food, Science and Technology, Egerton University.