Bananas are nothing if not complex, as I have learned since arriving in Martinique. This is a country that has built its economy around sugar cane and bananas, so it makes sense that they would have an intricate understanding of the fruit. If you want to learn more about this fruit, the place to visit is the banana museum in Sainte Marie, a town in the northeast of Martinique.
Like most places in Martinique, finding the Musée de la Banane is no easy feat. Even if you do try to find directions through Google Maps (always a tricky and unreliable venture in Martinique) you will probably not find this museum unless you ask a local for directions. The museum is not in the “bourg” or the city of Sainte Marie, but in a small quartier in the country.
However, the museum itself is worth the trouble you take to find it. Access to the one room museum and the grounds is 6 euros for an adult, but the one room is packed with information. The exhibit is in French, a typo-ridden but mostly understandable form of English (understandable parly because of the penciled in corrections that some visitor made), and Creole. It includes videos and graphics and, of course, sample bananas. I wish that they had given us figue pommes, which are smaller but more flavorful in my opinion, but the dessert bananas were perfectly adequate.
After the exhibit, you can wander around the museum’s impressive collection of banana trees. It features bananas from Cameroon to India. Many of the bananas are yellow or green as one would expect, but you may also see some that are reddish or bright pink!
The museum ends with a stop at the little restaurant—and this is a stop worth seeing to those of you who are used to skipping museum restaurants altogether.The restaurant offers samples of local products included in your ticket. Some are fairly standard in Martinique, like banana jam and banana bread. Others, like banana ketchup, will intrigue the adventurous and nauseate the picky eaters. It’s a bright yellow color and a tinge sweeter than regular tomato ketchup. For what it’s worth, I thought the banana ketchup was delicious, although I normally wouldn’t eat it by itself. It would pair well with fries though, and at the end of the day that is all I expect out of any ketchup.