It Came From the Flea Market!

I've always been on the lookout for unusual fruit, but one day my wife came home with a banana fritter from her Filipino coworker and I had to know where she found the creamy and carmelized banana used in the recipe. The common Dwarf Cavendish bananas from the grocery store are chalky and bland, but this banana had a complex flavor that I unfortunately enjoyed too quickly before realizing I ate my whole share. I had to find more of this mystery banana!

When my wife tried to crack the banana code, her coworker simply relied "Those are Filipino bananas! Those are our bananas!" Eventually my faithful spy got her fellow cubicle prisoner to talk (to this day she refuses to divulge how she got the information) and she then returned with the secret of the fritter's origin: It came from the flea market!

The Elusive Saba Bananas
The 'House of Fleas' flea market wasn't too exciting. I did find an Asian vendor selling banana, rice and guava plants, but apart from that I had to trudge through displays of cabbage patch kids, expired shampoo and hubcaps to reach my quarry; A large stall filled with exotic fruits and vegetables manned by a diverse staff with wonderfully thick accents. In this decidedly un-cosmopolitan city of Jacksonville, I was surprised to hear a cacophony of languages spoken with their infinite intonations and lilts as if I was at a bazaar far from home. To the expatriate Navy wives however, this was probably the very closest thing to home around.

Giddy with excitement, I bounced back and forth between carefully stacked banana flowers, bitter melons and knobbly gourds before floating euphorically to the sweeter scented half of the stall. Bright red rambutans with soft and flexible 'hairs' seemed to jostle around in the box as if they were freshly picked from a coral reef. Huge jackfruits sat behind the dealers, looking for all the world like reptilian watermelons waiting to unroll and greet me with a dazed smile, but it was me with the dopey expression. 

At the end of the stall I saw a Filipino woman carefully weighing big blocky stubs of bananas in her hands, and a faint memory arose of seeing these trapezoidal nanners online, affirming that these were indeed the bananas I sought. On my first trip to the flea market I bought a heavy bunch of what I later found to be Saba bananas, along with rambutans, tomatoes (boring, right?), June plums and a white guava, all for a pittance. On the way home we stopped by a Fresh Market and snagged a dragonfruit, which were sold out at the flea market. It was a surprising find for a chain grocer.


June Plum

Thai White Guava
That night we had my sister over for dinner and made her a Thai curry dish, but only after offering her a psychadelic appetizer of dragonfruits and rambutans, which she ate before I had time to tell her much about them. The grand finale however, was a dessert of carmelized banana fritters pan fried in brown sugar and coconut milk. They were delicious. Now I know that my wife's coworker referred to them as "our bananas" but I really hope she doesn't mind sharing.

Our cornucopia of tropical fruit, served up on a banana leaf from the garden



  1. Psychadelic indeed! I love your little cornucopia!

  2. That is a beautiful cornucopia! Love your description of flea market adventures. : ) Your elusive bananas remind me of the Manzano ("apple") bananas they sell at Publix. I always look at them with curiosity, but haven't had the courage to experiment. And isn't dragonfruit just gorgeous? Husband built me a wooden support for one, and I am growing a vine up it in the garden. It has already reached the top! A very vigorous grower!

    1. I'm so excited that you get to grow it like that! I managed to grow my seedlings outdoors last winter but it was a mild one, so I'm sure they'd have a rougher time in other years.

  3. the best ones are the finger banans..I order 3 form a local nursey and they sent them form Thailand.....I love the creamy flavor and thin skins and when they are speckled they are still favorite! Iam hoping mine grow well

    1. Funny you should say that! I've been waiting for my finger bananas to ripen and they finally have those telltale speckles! Guess what I'll be eating for breakfast?

  4. Those June plums are known as kedondong locally in my place.
    I'm not sure how you would enjoy it - its extremely sour.
    Usually its sliced and eaten together with a special sauce to counter the sourness.
    Regardless - I often enjoy eating rambutans when it comes to season. There are quite a many varieties and cost as low as about $2 for a kilo.

    Those tiny seeds from the dragonfriut - try to plant them, they certainly look like an epiphyte cactus.

    1. Yeah, I wasn't crazy about the June plums but did remember reading about the sauce in a Thai or Cambodian cookbook. By the way, I planted dragonfruit seeds a couple years ago and they're almost mature now!


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