Can’t stomach green bananas? Turns out they’re good for you
MISSHAPEN, oversized, spotted and unsaleable bananas once destined for waste bins, landfill and cattle feed troughs are being transformed in far north Queensland into a new “superfood” with unique medicinal properties.
Trailblazing Mareeba banana grower and long-time inventor Rob Watkins has found a way to mill and convert unripe Lady Finger and Cavendish bananas into green banana flour. It is an invention that has captured the attention of global health experts and future food investors.
Besides turning 10 tonnes of unwanted banana crops each week into a new age glutenfree food that can be eaten in breads and cakes by coeliacs and other sufferers of gluten intolerance, Mr Watkins has also stumbled across a product that is exciting the nutritional supplement and functional food world.
The green banana flour and powder produced by Mr Watkins under his Natural Evolution brand has been discovered by immunology and biomedicine researchers at Monash University to be one of the highest natural sources of resistant starch.
Resistant starch is not digested in the stomach and small intestine like most foods, but instead passes through to the bowel and colon. It is then broken down and slowly fermented by beneficial gut bacteria that release substances that can protect against and treat diabetes, auto-immune diseases and other medical conditions.
“The findings illustrate the dawn of a new era in treating human disease with medicinal foods,” said Monash University immunology professor — and Port Douglas property owner – Charles Mackay.
Mr Watkins, who started tinkering with making nutritious flour from green banana five years ago on his family’s banana farm, now has a $3.8 million banana flour factory up and running and buys the waste bananas from three local farmers.
He is already making about 1.5 tonnes of banana flour a week – it takes 8kg of bananas that are mechanically peeled and cold crushed to make 1kg of banana flour powder – and is struggling to keep up with orders from food companies and health food stores.
Leftover banana skins are also being turned into a skin cream ointment to heal infect- ed sores.
“I knew there was something special about green bananas from watching the cattle and wallabies that ate them all the time; they were just so healthy,” says Mr Watkins, who last month won the prestigious Gold Edison Award for inventors in New York for his unique NutroLock natural flour making process.
“But I am constantly being surprised by what the scientists are discovering; now it seems we have discovered a product — green banana powder — that is not just a gluten-free flour but the richest source of resistant starch in the world.”
Tablelands farmer and Natural Evolution founder Rob Watkins