Enjoying Banana Bread
Everyone grew up with it as a kid. Didn’t matter who made it or where it came from – it was worth a try. It became a little harder to find the good stuff as we got older. We get picky as we age. It often comes as a big muffin, a bunch of tiny muffins, a thick slice from a big loaf and of course the small loaf. However, until you’ve had some banana bread from a road to Hana fruit stand, you may not have known how good this kind of bread can be…. it’s all about the bananas baby!
The history of banana bread in the U.S. dates back to the 1930’s when commercially available baking soda and baking powder made it very easy to create this unleavened bread. Bananas first arrived in the United States in the 1870’s but were expensive and mainly used as a dessert ingredient. But the history of bananas goes back much further.
The Greek naturalist philosopher Theophrastus described the banana in 77 B.C. Since the Greeks had been making bread for thousands of years it is possible they were the first to try making a loaf of banana bread. We do know that bananas spread around the world from Southeast Asia starting in the 4th century BC. They were propagated in the tropical climates of the world, including Polynesia and eventually making their way to Hawaiʻi.
This means the history of bananas in Hawaiʻi is also ancient. In their book The World of Hawaiian Bananas – Then and Now published in 2011, authors Angela Kepler and Frank Rust discovered through 8 years of research that bananas and coconuts were brought to Hawaiʻi by the ancient voyaging peoples of Polynesia between 200 AD and 1350 AD. These ancient strains still survive in the deep jungles of the islands. Through aerial surveys 19 types of ancient Hawaiian bananas have been found growing in small groves high in secluded mountain valleys of every island. It is thought that these could have been planted by banished communities of ancient Hawaiians. The varieties found today are believed to have been introduced in the 1850’s.
Imagine how long bananas have been grown in Hana? By all accounts, it’s possible that this wonderful fruit has been planted here for over a thousand years! No wonder they have a flavor all their own.
Banana bread is just one of those things most people will eat their entire lives. But I will say this – you have not had the world’s best banana bread until you’ve had some in Hawaiʻi, specifically banana bread from Maui’s road to Hana. Why? It’s all about the bananas baby!
If you live on the island chances are you have your favorite place to pick up some banana bread. If you love to cook then chances are you have a recipe and a favorite place to buy bananas. If you live in Maui and have a banana tree on your property, you will need to do something with the 40+ pounds of bananas when they ripen. The primary type of banana that everyone loves in Maui is known as apple bananas. However, there are other types of bread to experience also:
Added Banana Bread ingredients
There are two main varieties of these short, fat and sweet bananas everyone loves so much is grown on the island. Both are excellent, and it’s up to debate which is better. Dwarf Brazilians, which are slightly pink inside, and a Chinese variety called Dwarf Cavendish featuring white meat make up the bulk of Maui’s dessert bananas grown today.
Bananas grow best in areas with 100 inches of rain per year. Hana gets —– per year. It’s another reason the banana bread along this road has such a moist and silky texture.
Below is a brief listing of the different places to try banana bread from this amazing region of Maui.
Twin Falls – 40 to 50 minutes from Kahului. This farm stand harvests its own fruit from the valley just a few steps away. Their banana bread is pretty good when they have it. On a short walk to a small waterfall and pool you will see banana and coconut trees. Please don’t pick them though, its Kapu! (forbidden).
Aunty Sandy’s – A road to Hana banana bread icon, Auntie Sandy has run this stand for 30 years. Other than having some amazing bananas to work with, she says her secret ingredient is the butter.
Halfway to Hana – Another well-known spot on the banana bread trail is the Halfway to Hana stand. Another 30 year veteran of Ke’anae, Auntie Marilyn and Nita Chong’s stand is located on the main road just past the Ke’anae turnoff overlooking the peninsula. They have some wonderfully moist banana bread, possibly because they use shortening. Everyone has their particular recipe…
Hana Farms – This is a fairly large operation by Hana standards. Made with butter and five flavors to choose from Hana Farms also has their jams and jellies, a hot sauce, and hot coffee and smoothies. Lots of bang for your buck here!
Wailua Falls – This iconic waterfall can be found beyond Hana just before the Pools of Oheo. This relatively large parking area has several local Hana folks selling what is often one of a kind souvenir items. Chef Dave can be found selling banana bread off the back of his truck in this parking area. He’s an accomplished baker and offers three different flavors of banana bread. By this time you probably have a couple of loaves of wonderful bread, but Chef Dave’s bread is worth grabbing one more for the road…
If for any reason you don’t have time for the road to Hana (a shame) during your Maui vacation there are several other spots in Maui for great banana bread. Here’s a few to choose from:
Julia’s Fruit Stand – On the far northwestern end of Maui between Wailuku and Kapalua is a small hamlet called Kahakuloa. Auntie Julia’s has been running a close tie for first place with Auntie Sandy at Ke’anae in the Maui banana bread running for many years. Actor turned travel writer Andrew McCarthy wrote a great story about his quest for the best banana bread in Maui. Auntie Julia uses vegetable oil in her recipe.
Maui Swap Meet – Held every Saturday in the parking lot at Maui community college, this massive swap meet is loaded with every kind of Maui thing imaginable. Plenty of banana bread varieties as well as trinkets, fresh fruit, vegetables and a plethora of handmade items.
Grandma’s Coffee House – This fantastic spot is past Kula in the upcountry area known as Keokea. Breakfast here is one of the best on the island and the baked goods are worth the 45 minutes or so drive from Kahului.
Four Sisters Bakery – This small yet interestingly rounded building can be found in Wailuku. This is a local style bakery that also has tasty French pastry items. Their banana bread is made with vanilla pudding! The mango bread is wonderful too.
Well, there you have it. Maui’s banana bread is worth hunting for, and if your out on the road to Hana consider getting at least four loaves – trust me, you won’t regret it!
Aloha Nui Loa