Bananas – the most popular fruit in the world
It is a staple in most of our lives and it has its own designated place in our fruit bowls. We bake and cook with it or we simply eat it as it is after the gym or for a midday snack. But how much do we really know about this fruit?
History of Bananas – the most popular fruit in the world
Did you know that bananas according to the Botanical definition are in fact berries and not fruit and that the banana tree isn’t actually a tree at all? It is in fact the world’s largest herb. This is due to the fact that the stem of the banana plant is composed of leaf stalks and is not wooden.
Bananas were one of the earlier plants to be cultivated by humans, more than 7,000 years ago. Some scientists even suggest that bananas were domesticated around the same time as rice and potatoes. The Banana migrated originally from South East Asia to Africa and was traded in the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries.
How bananas are produced
There are more than 1,000 types of bananas found across the world. Some are pink and fuzzy like the Musa Velutina and others are as short as our fingers like the colloquially called Lady Finger bananas. The most famous one for us in the western world is Cavendish. The Cavendish bananas we eat today are the largest fruit crop and the fourth-largest product grown overall.
An interesting fact about Cavendish bananas is that they cannot reproduce on their own, meaning that they are sterile and need humans for propagation. This is done by using so-called suckers, which are taken from the underground stem.
This process is called cloning. This essentially means that mostly all Cavendish bananas are identical. Some farmers also use a method called tissue cultivation.
The threat to Cavendish Bananas
The Gros Michel bananas, also known as Big Mike, dominated the western markets until the 1960s. It was the predecessor of the Cavendish banana.
A suffocating root fungus also known as Panama disease halted the production of the Gros Michel bananas that led to the replacement with the current Cavendish banana.
At the time the Cavendish banana was immune to the disease. But since the fungus has mutated it is an imminent threat to the Cavendish as well. The fact that most of our bananas come from clones that are almost genetically identical makes the Cavendish vulnerable.
But the good news is that as in this writing moment scientists and plant researchers are trying to come up with a solution to save the Cavendish banana.
The numerous uses of the banana plant
Whether it’s in a smoothie, pancakes or banana bread, most people love their bananas and there are countless recipes that include bananas. Consumption of the banana berry is perhaps the most famous use of bananas.
But did you know that some scientists believe that the herb was first domesticated for the use of the fibres derived from the banana plant used for weaving and not for eating?
In the tropical areas of the world, banana leaves are used for serving food, packaging as a more sustainable option to plastic, and for cooking. In Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies the leaves are often used for decorations.
Even the banana peel can be used. You can make homemade fertilizer for your plants as the peel contains a lot of nutrients and you can also make vegan bacon out of them!
Health Benefits of Bananas
Bananas are a great source of nutrients. Both green and unripe bananas, as well as ripe and bananas with spots, are thought to have many health benefits. Unripe bananas may help to control problems in the intestines and may lower blood pressure. They also contain resistant starches that act as prebiotics and promote healthy gut bacteria.
Ripe bananas contain a higher nutritional value according to some studies. This means bananas are a great source for numerous dietary fibres vitamins and minerals such as potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A.
Next time you are craving something sweet remember the health benefits, and choose organic!