Spanish traders from Africa brought it to Spain in the 16th century while Portuguese sailors took it to South America. While colonizing tropical countries from Jamaica, the Portuguese began growing bananas in Latin America on large farms using slave labor. Until the Victorian period, bananas were not widely known in Europe or the United States, but today bananas grown in the United States have international brands like Chiquita and Dole.
Bananas arrived early in India. Buddhist monks were allowed to eat green bananas, not ripe bananas which might contain insects. Indian Ayurveda classifies bananas as a healthy but cold food that controls bile (Pitta).
Foreign visitors to India have been struck by the widespread use of bananas of various varieties, especially in Kerala, where, as in Caribbean cuisine, bananas are used for sweet and savory dishes, fried in crisps and French fries in dough. Kerala-style plantain chips fried in coconut oil and fresh banana fritters are popular snacks and desserts today from South East Asia to England.
Banana hearts are used as an exotic vegetable in Bengal and Assam. There are references to the great mystical seer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is served “Thod”, a delicacy prepared from the heart of the banana stem. The flavor is said to be close to artichoke hearts and considered a great delicacy in Bengal. In Bengal, Mochar Ghonto, banana blossom heart curry and steamed fish with mustard paste and lemon juice of the Gondhoraj variety are also delicacies.
Since banana leaves are large, flexible, and waterproof, they make ideal, disposable food plates. They are traditionally used in India for serving food, especially on holy occasions and in temples. Being biodegradable and available in abundance everywhere, washed properly, they are also a more hygienic way to serve cooked meals than poorly washed dishes in restaurants.
While in the north bananas are mainly eaten as fruit or as offerings to the gods, in the south the green varieties are used to prepare various specialties like Avialand, a sweet dish called Koaleputtu, a mash of ripe bananas, from roasted rice powder, jaggery and coconut wedges. all steamed in bundles of banana leaves, to be eaten hot or cold. The tender heart of the banana trunk is also used in curries in Kerala, Burma and the northeastern states of India.