The Colorful Banana Variety That Tastes Like Ice Cream
Banana ice cream or, as it’s more trendily known, nice cream, has become a crave-worthy treat for vegans and lactose intolerant people alike — even before the days of Ben & Jerry’s line of dairy-free flavors. Made from a blend of frozen, well-ripened bananas and plant-based milk, nice cream is sweet, creamy, and completely customizable. Throw in chocolate chips, peanut butter, a bit of pumpkin spice, or even a scoop of protein powder to the mix, and you’ll have yourself a cold, ice-cream-like dessert that boasts all the banana benefits your body needs. But, what if I were to tell you that there was a banana out there that tasted like ice cream, with no freezing, blending, or vegan nice cream business involved?
Blue java bananas, also popularly known as ice cream bananas, first broke the internet in the summer of 2021 when an image of them and their blue peels began circling on social media platforms. While attention-grabbing, the images didn’t paint the full picture of the Southeast Asian fruit. The banana’s stunning blue-toned peels are only present when the fruit hasn’t ripened. With time, its peels slowly fade into a creamy-yellow color. But the fascination with blue java bananas is more than skin deep. As their nickname suggests, the blue fruits have a subtle custard-like flavor and vanilla aroma — leading to comparisons to the taste of ice cream. If that is true, your next batch of banana nice cream just got a whole lot better.
What are blue java bananas?
Blue java bananas are actually a hybrid of two other types of bananas native to South Asia: the Musa acuminata (Cavendish banana) and the Musa balbisiana (plantain). As one of the most cold-tolerant banana plant varieties out there –- it can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit –- blue java bananas are hardy plants that can thrive in high winds and cold weather. Surprisingly, however, blue java banana plants originated as tropical trees and can be found growing wildly in areas of Indonesia, Hawaii, and Fiji. So, while blue java bananas can handle the cold, like you and I, they would prefer not to.
Scientifically known as Musa acuminata x balbisiana, and nicknamed the "Hawaiian banana," blue java bananas are about as tropical as it gets. More importantly, however, blue java bananas have a waxy layer that gives them their unique blue-toned hue. Images online tend to exaggerate the banana’s unique color with filters and effects, making them appear much bluer than they really are. It’s also important to note that they’re only blue when unripe. Just like normal bananas, which are green when unripe, blue java bananas turn yellow with age.
Besides being blue and not green, blue java bananas are a different shape than the kind you’re used to seeing at the grocery store. Shorter and stouter, blue java bananas have a style all their own — with a flavor to match.
What do blue java bananas taste like?
One thing’s for sure: the blue java banana’s uniqueness isn’t just skin deep. In fact, their blue peels only touch the surface of what makes this tropical fruit so special. As their jewel-toned skin fades into yellow, what’s inside them only becomes more remarkable. Blue java bananas have collected a handful of nicknames: Hawaiian bananas, Ney Mannan bananas, and blue lubin, to name a few. But none are more indicative of this fruit’s true nature than the one it’s arguably most known as — the ice cream banana.
With a name like that, it can be hard to live up to expectations, but blue java bananas actually do taste like vanilla ice cream. Described as custard-like, with a subtle vanilla flavor, blue java bananas are sweet and slightly tart-like apple bananas, only with an even gooier and creamier texture. Edelle Schlegel, co-owner of Miami Fruit, a tropical fruit vendor based in South Florida, told USA Today that their ultra-creamy texture is the real reason they’ve been crowned as "ice cream bananas." Even so, their flavor seems to be going along with the show.
With a sweet flavor, creamy texture, and name like that, there’s no doubt your foodie minds are spinning with ways to use blue java bananas at home. If you’re a dessert person, get your pen and notepad ready.
Cooking with blue java bananas
First things first, if you’re planning to cook with blue java bananas, you have to start by tasting them just as they are. Whether you peel one and bite into it straight or slice it up and add it to your fruit salad, blue java bananas have a unique, custard-like flavor that is perfect for snacking on its own. That said, they’re also suitable for any snack or food you’d use regular bananas in — from peanut butter to banana sandwiches, and from smoothies to banana sundaes. The simple substitution of a normal banana for a blue java one is enough to impress just about anybody.
However, there are other and more elevated ways to get your fix of blue java bananas — particularly as a dessert. It’s called the ice cream banana for a reason. Blue java bananas work wonderfully frozen and blended into a thick, creamy, ice-cream-like treat, or dipped into chocolate and frozen for an even quicker sweet-tooth satisfier. They pair especially well with other fruits, chocolate, peanut butter, and espresso, so if you can find a way to sneak any of those in, you’re sure to please the table. You can also substitute them in other signature banana desserts too — just make sure they’re ripe.
Whether it’s blue java banana pudding, pie, or bread, baking with blue java bananas is an excellent way to elevate your favorite baked dishes with that extra bit of gooeyness and vanilla flavor — all while reaping the banana benefits.
While they may be sweeter and creamier than the bananas you’re used to eating, blue java bananas are just as beneficial. You heard that right. With ice cream bananas, you can enjoy all the creaminess and sweetness of ice cream, without any of the associated health concerns. This will be especially good news for vegan or lactose-intolerant eaters out there, seeing as you won’t have any of the attributed side effects or the animal and environmental concerns that are linked to ice cream made with dairy. However, everybody — vegan or not — could benefit from adding blue java bananas to their diet.
For one, blue java bananas are rich in fiber, delivering up to 13 grams per serving, according to data collected by the USDA. Like other types of bananas, blue java bananas are also good sources of manganese, a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in your metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. While delivering healthy amounts of immune-boosting vitamins C and B6, a 2015 study showed that blue java bananas are packed with antioxidants that defend your cells from damage and prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancers.
Where to buy blue java bananas
As you can probably guess, you won’t find blue java bananas at any old grocery store. If you are lucky enough to live in Hawaii or South Florida though, you could spot some at your local farmers market. The less-than-lucky majority of us, however, will have a better time ordering them online. Fortunately, there is an online tropical fruit vendor you can get them from.
If you have your heart set on getting a taste of the ice cream bananas ASAP, Miami Fruit has a box of them with your name on it — literally. On their website, you can pre-order a small or large box of blue java bananas and have them delivered right to your door. (There’s currently a three-year wait time though.) If you want them sooner, you might also want to try their best-selling banana variety pack that includes the blue java bananas.
But if the whole online fruit delivery thing sounds questionable to you, you can consider growing your own. Blue java banana plants are some of the hardiest banana varieties there are, so if you live somewhere where the temperatures stay between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit and rarely drop below 30, you could have a little blue java banana business of your own.