As I've discovered during several years' worth of travels while researching a book on bananas, you cannot walk ten feet in most banana-growing nations without encountering a banana or a banana tree—which isn't a tree at all but an herb, the world's largest. On a Philippine street corner, a few pennies buys a red-skinned Lacatan; to a palate accustomed to Cavendish, it is heaven: creamy and rich, with a taste like homemade ice cream. In India, where roughly 670 varieties of banana grow—more than in any other country—nearly every village has its own preferred type. The variety called Rasa Bale, from the region around the city of Mysore, has skin as thin as paper and an alluring, floral taste. Vikram Doctor, a columnist for the Economic Times of India who has been known to write about local bananas with the flair of a wine critic, prefers the Rasthali, whose "plumpness, almost bursting out of their skins, makes them great to bite into, and their texture is creamy, and taste complex, with interesting fruity notes." The banana capital of our own side of the world is Brazil. At a sidewalk cafe in the city of Manaus, I was served a pastry that tasted like apple strudel—but was filled with bananas. It was made with the Maça variety; I found out that the Maça belongs to an entire category of "apple bananas," whose firm texture and tartness evoke the namesake fruit.