Bananas are usually eaten by peeling off the skin and discarding it, but farmers at D&T Farm in Okayama Prefecture in Japan have managed to grow a variety that lets you eat the entire fruit, including the skin. The specially-bred banana is called the Mongee Banana, which, in Japanese, means “incredible.”
Bananas thrive best in tropical climates, but Mongee bananas are grown using a method called “freeze-thaw awakening.” This method mimics the growing conditions of plants from the Ice Age some 20,000 years ago. The farmers first subject the saplings to freezing temperatures at -60°C. They are then be taken out and allowed to thaw before replanting.
Japan is relatively cool and this could prevent bananas from growing, but for the freeze-thaw awakening, there is a change in temperature, which encourages the seedlings to grow a bit faster. Typically, bananas reach full maturity in about two years, but with this method, Mongee bananas are ready in just four months. The first successful yield was made available in November. The specially-cultivated banana is also much sweeter than regular bananas, with a sugar content of 24.8 grams. A regular banana contains an average of 18.3 grams of sugar.
Despite the fact that Mongee can be grown rapidly, it is still considered rare and only 10 go on sale every week. The bananas are sold at department store Tenmanya Okayama’s fruit section for 648 yen or about $5.75 USD. Its rarity makes it all the more coveted. After all, the banana is the most consumed fruit in Japan, according to Sora News 24, with 99 percent of bananas imported from abroad, and that’s because it is cheap, it’s delicious, and it’s easy to eat.
Japanese-language correspondent P.K. Sanjun managed to taste the rare Mongee banana and shared the experience with Sora News 24. As stated on the website, the banana, described to have a rather thin skin, should ripen first before it can be eaten and that’s when little brown spots are noticeable on the skin. The smell of this banana variety is rather strong and tempting, and once tasted, it had a prominent tropical taste. Sanjun even described it as pineapple-like and far from being a regular banana.
Finally, on to the skin, it was described to be easy to eat, since it’s so thin. The consumer did not report any strange texture. The skin, however, lacks flavor but it should be compensated when eaten along with the super sweet banana. When the skin is eaten alone without the flesh, Sanjun described it to be tolerably bitter, but definitely still edible.
Banana peels being edible shouldn’t be surprising because people in other countries have been eating them for decades. There are also plenty of benefits from eating the skin. D&T listed the benefits on their website, which include a high content of vitamin B6 and magnesium necessary for serotonin synthesis. The only thing that makes Mongee stand out is that its skin is thin and it’s not that bitter, as opposed to regular bananas, which have a tough, fibrous, and bitter skin. Still, eating the skin of a regular banana is possible and it’s done by blending it into smoothies, boiling, baking, or frying them.