Nine-year-old Elizabeth Tama has been enjoying spending time in her class showing her skills in preparing local coconut oil mixed with tiare maori flowers, during a science class.
Tama was one of the Year 4 and 5 students of Apii Arorangi who joined to scrape some coconuts, add some flowers and leave them out in the sun to dry – producing scented coconut oil.
“I learnt this from home with my mama and papa, and here in school we learnt much closer, watching and doing it ourselves through our teachers,” she said.
Class teacher Terangi Elika said that back in her day, making local coconut oil would help them in their school fundraisers.
But this time, the students get to take some of their hard work home. She said the oil would be good for the skin and massaging.
Elika said the experiment included a cultural experience for the students where they understood traditional methods of food preservation, or how their forefathers made traditional scented coconut oil.
For Poea Upukokeu, 10, he enjoyed preparing the bananas to dry them out in the sun, making piere.
He and his friends Zephaniah Aperau and Ngametua Kareroa said they enjoyed the practical part of the class, being outside and preparing the bananas and coconuts for their science experiment.
Teacher Elika said: “If you have an abundance of bananas, drying could be an effective way to preserve the fruit with very little loss of nutrients.”
She said as part of their science class, the experimental activity is meant to show the students how materials change in terms of shapes, taste and colours.
“Students enjoy hands on activities, practically learning and understanding the method, rather than just sitting and writing in the classroom.”
She said the school was right next to the sea, with their practical classes, they wanted the students to learn and understand traditional ways of cooking, fishing, and especially during this time.
Making sun-dried bananas at home
Staples or tacks
Wood or concrete blocks
Sour fruit juice or ascorbic acid fruit protector
Cheesecloth or netting
Airtight containers or resealable plastic bags
Tip: Screening tacked on old and window frame makes a good drying rack.
Warning: Avoid hardware cloth screening, which is made from galvanized metal that may leave harmful chemical residue on the bananas. Don’t use aluminium screening, which eventually corrodes.
1. Make an outdoor drying screen. Create a simple frame by connecting wooden slats into a rectangular shape and stapling or tacking screening to the frame. Use food-safe screening made of fiberglass with a non-stick coating, plastic mesh or stainless steel. Raise the drying screen at least 4 to 6 inches to allow air circulation.
2. Select bananas that are firm, ripe and yellow in colour. Avoid brown, overripe bananas, although a few brown speckles are fine. Slice the bananas into shapes you want. You can also cut bananas into sticks.
3. Dip the bananas into a bowl of fruit juice that is high in vitamin C, such as orange, grape, lemon, pineapple or cranberry. The juice adds extra flavour to the bananas and the ascorbic acid prevents the fruit from turning brown.
4. Arrange the bananas in a single layer on the drying screen. Cover the racks with cheesecloth or netting to protect the bananas from birds and insects.
5. Place the racks in a sunny spot. A concrete driveway or sidewalk works well, as the concrete reflects the heat and increases the temperature.
6. Allow the bananas to dry until the chips are crispy. Turn the bananas over after two days, or about halfway through the drying time. Drying may take up to six days, depending on the air temperature, humidity and thickness of the slices.
7. Store the dried bananas in an airtight container or resealable plastic bags. Crisp, dried bananas keep for several months.