I think most people in the world have heard about the floods in Queensland (some great/awful photos here) - and a few of you have asked me what it's like in Townsville. Although Brisbane's floods are what put our state on the international map this year, a fair chunk of our huge state has been affected: an area about the size of Texas, or a bit bigger. Luckily for me, though, the flooding didn't start until about 500kms south of Townsville.
In fact, it's been one of the dryest wet seasons I've seen - I am unsure of how the actual amount of rain compares to most years, but what I mean is that we haven't had much steady rain. This year has actually been pretty pleasant, with a shower or storm in the day that goes away fairly quickly, and often some more overnight rain. Otherwise, we've had really blue, sunny days since shortly after Christmas. Sure, it's humid, but we've missed the usual (in my 5 years here) pattern of solid, unrelenting rain that lasts for a week or two, interspersed with a few sunny, hot days every now and again. The results of the normal rainy season are loads of mould, ridiculous humidity, bike paths that stay flooded for weeks, and an inability to do any laundry unless you own a clothes dryer. So I've really appreciated this wet season, at least so far. After that xmas-NYE week, the bike path hasn't been flooded at all, and the river has dropped heaps compared to then as well (remember my photos here?).
We got a food dehydrator a few months ago. It's an Excalibur, and it has five trays, and it's a bit big for the kitchen so it lives on top of the washing machine.
Since we've gotten it, we've tried out a few things - mangoes (so good, and much better than storebought), pawpaw (aka papaya - not so nice), mushrooms, capsicum, carrots, kiwi, apples, and rockmelon (canteloupe). And also lightly salted pumpkin seeds, which are totally yum. And granola, which is approximately 13 times better than oven-granola.
But today I'm going to talk bananas. I tried making banana chips almost straightaway, by putting thinly slice bananas into the dehydrator. They were gross. They were pretty ripe, and the dehydrating resulted in a sickly-sweet flavour and a chewy texture - not what I was expecting.
Fast forward to a few weekends ago, when a friend from uni gifted me with some bananas from her garden. Being home alone, I decided to experiment a bit further. I was being generous - if I found a good way to dehydrate bananas, I could help my friend with all of her excess crops. Pretty nice of me, no? So I googled banana chips, and discovered that the delicious, crunchy treats are deep fried. I didn't want to give up, though, so I tried tossing my banana slices in oil and golden syrup before dehydrating, hoping it would crisp them up.
Well, no luck. They were more pleasant than the first batch, but still not that good.
So banana chips are a no-go. But all is not lost - I discovered the joys of fruit leather. I tried three varieties: Banana with lime
Banana with mixed (frozen) berries
And banana with peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon.
The idea behind fruit leather is pretty simple. Just blend up fruit, spread it onto the trays, and dehydrate. All three came out pretty well, though the berry version stuck. I don't know whether I spread it too thinly, overdried it, or the berry chunks weren't blended well enough, but I had to fight to get little strips off the sheet. The others, though, peeled off smoothly and stayed in one big, beautiful sheet. I rolled up, and cut into pieces, and have been snacking on banana fruit leather since then.
I still can't for the life of me remember the awesome idea I had to link these two ideas together - it came to me while I was riding home, but it's left me since then. So, um, I like my dehydrator, and I also like how dry this wet season has been. And I can now generously offer to take bananas from anyone who has too many! I'll even give ya back some fruit leather...