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Fe'i bananas are squat, thick, and have prominent ridges running the length of the peel making them slightly angular and round. The peel, when mature, is bright orange with blushes of red, yellow, with black cracking. The flesh is semi-firm and ranges from yellow to orange. Fe'i bananas grow in an upright pattern, and the bracts are a bright shiny green. When cooked, Fe'i bananas are tender and starchy with sweet and tangy flavors.
Fe'i bananas are available year-round.
Fe'i bananas, botanically classified as Musa troglodytarum, are the fruits of a large perennial plant and are members of the Musa, or banana family. Also known as Fe’i banana, Fehi banana, Hueta, Tahitian Red cooking banana, Mai’A He’I in Hawaiian, and Fe'i Shi Jiao in Chinese, Fe'i bananas are cultivated on a local level in Tahiti and are a prized food source and material for construction. The leaves are used for plates, roofing materials, and woven to make ropes and floating rafts. The pink sap of the plant can also be used as a dye to make ink. Fe'i bananas have grown increasingly rare as new banana varieties have been introduced to the island, but a local movement is striving to raise awareness and regain popularity of the historical fruit.
Fe'i bananas are an excellent source of potassium, calcium, carotenoids, and vitamin E.
Fe'i bananas are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, roasting, and baking. Similar to plantains, Fe'i bananas have a high starch content and retain their shape when boiled or roasted and are commonly used in chicken, pork, and beef dishes. They are also cooked with sweet potatoes in curry-based dishes. Fe'i bananas pair well with fresh coconut cream, aromatics such as garlic, onion, and red curry paste, sweet potatoes, Thai red chili peppers, cilantro, lime, and rice. Fe'i bananas will keep up to four days when stored in a cool and dry place.
In Samona, there is a legend that depicts how Fe'i bananas earned their upright growth habits. The legend states that there was a great battle between the mountain banana, the Fe'i banana, and the lowland banana. The Fe'i banana won and held its head high in victory growing upright, while the lowland banana dropped its head and never raised it again, growing down towards the earth. Fe'i bananas represent strength and prestige and are a symbol of power.
Fe'i bananas are believed to be native to the New Guinea area and largely stayed on a local level, only being spread to neighboring lands in the Pacific via explorers. Fe'i bananas were first recorded in botanist Georg Rumpf’s book, Herbarium amboinensis, in 1747. Today, Fe'i bananas can be found in local markets in Fiji, Indonesia, Tahiti, and Hawaii.