Mongee Banana - Detail - © D&T Farms

Odd Eats: Mongee Bananas from Japan

It’s an exclusive treat from western Japan and it’s in big demand – but the supply is almost unbelievably small. Why is it so sought after? For one thing, it’s claimed to be organically grown. For another, it’s said to have exquisite flavour. But there’s a lot more to its ‘appeel’ [sic] than that…

Mongee Banana - © D&T FarmsThe Mongee Banana is said to be perfect for eating (i.e.- properly ripened)
when its skin is covered by small brown spots…

If you haven’t guessed already, the Mongee Banana is something really different. It looks like a chubby specimen of a regular Cavendish Banana, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Among other desirable traits, the Mongee’s skin is thin and tender. You can actually eat the skin! The Mongee Banana is said to taste almost as sweet and flowery as Pineapple. It’s also about one third sweeter than a regular banana.

No wonder they named it ‘Mongee’: that’s slang in Okayama prefecture (where it’s exclusively grown) for ‘incredible!’.

What is it, exactly?

It’s a genetically engineered Banana in which genes for hardiness in non-tropical climates have been implanted.

Still in the early stages of test cultivation, the Mongee Banana is extremely rare. Only ten a week are sent to the sole retailers authorized to handle them, Tenmanya Okayama, an Okayama department store. Oh, the mystique! Unlike the finest, most sought-after caviar, tough, Mongee Bananas sell for the equivalent of about (US)$5.75 apiece.

They’re not coming to North America any time soon, but if they eventually do… Will they be disease resistant as they are said to be insect resistant? And how far north would they grow here?

I want a Mongee Banana tree in my back yard!

~ Maggie J.

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