Bananas are elongated, edible fruits produced by many species of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. Cooking bananas are often referred to as “plantains” in some countries, to differentiate them from dessert bananas. The size, colour, and firmness of the fruit varies, but it is normally elongated and curved, with smooth, starchy flesh covered by a rind that is green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe. The fruits are borne in clusters from the plant’s tip. Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana are two wild species that produce almost all modern edible seedless (parthenocarp) bananas.
There is no clear distinction between “bananas” and “plantains” anywhere in the world. “Banana” usually refers to soft, sweet, dessert bananas, particularly those of the Cavendish group, which are the main exports from banana-growing countries, especially in the Americas and Europe. Musa cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are referred to as “plantains.” Many more types of banana are grown and eaten in other countries, such as Southeast Asia, so the binary distinction isn’t useful and isn’t made in local languages.
The banana plant is the world’s largest flowering herbaceous plant. All of a banana plant’s above-ground sections emerge from a formation known as a “corm.” Plants are often mistaken for trees because they are tall and robust, but what seems to be a trunk is simply a “false stem” or pseudostem. Bananas can be grown in a wide range of soils as long as they are at least 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) thick, well-drained, and not compacted. A “stalk” (petiole) and a blade make up the leaves of banana plants (lamina). The base of the petiole widens to form a sheath; the pseudostem, which is all that protects the plant, is made up of closely packed sheaths. When the sheath is first made, the edges intersect, forming a tubular shape. The edges of the pseudostem are pulled apart when new growth emerges in the middle. The height of cultivated banana plants varies according to variety and growing conditions. The majority are about 5 m (16 ft) tall, ranging from 3 m (10 ft) for ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ to 7 m (23 ft) or more for ‘Gros Michel’. The spirally shaped leaves can reach a length of 2.7 metres (8.9 feet) and a width of 60 cm (2.0 feet). They are quickly ripped by the wind, giving them the frond appearance.
The corm of a mature banana plant ceases forming new leaves and starts to form a flower spike, also known as an inflorescence. The immature inflorescence is carried by a stem that rises up within the pseudostem until it appears at the apex. Normally, each pseudostem produces only one inflorescence, also known as the “banana heart.” The pseudostem dies after fruiting, but offshoots from the base should have grown, making the plant perennial as a whole. Between rows of flowers, the inflorescence produces several bracts (sometimes mistakenly referred to as petals). Female flowers (which may transform into fruit) are found in rows higher up the stem (closer to the leaves) than male flowers. Since the ovary is inferior, the tiny petals and other flower parts emerge at the ovary’s tip.
The banana fruits grow in a wide hanging cluster made up of tiers (called “hands”), each tier containing up to 20 banana fruits. The hanging cluster is classified as a bunch, with 3–20 tiers, or as a “banana stem” in commercial cultivation, and can weigh 30–50 kilograms (66–110 lb). Individual banana fruits (also known as “fingers”) weigh about 125 grams (4 12 ounces), with about 75 percent water and 25 percent dry matter (nutrient table, lower right).
A “leathery berry” is how the fruit has been portrayed. The edible inner part has a protecting outer layer (a peel or skin) with several long, thin strings (phloem bundles) running lengthwise between the skin and the edible outer layer. By manually deforming the unopened fruit, the inner component of the popular yellow dessert variety can be divided lengthwise into three parts that correspond to the inner portions of the three carpels. The seeds are almost non-existent in cultivated varieties; the only traces are small black specks in the interior of the fruit.
Types (Species) of Banana
Banana is one of the most common household fruit. They come in different varieties which are as shown below:
The Cavendish banana is a popular banana found at the supermarket or farmer’s market. They have a creamy feel and are mildly sweet. They ripen at different points, from green to yellow to yellow with brown spots. They’re grown all over Central America, and their export is vital to the region’s economy.
Pisang Raja Banana
In Indonesia, Pisang Raja bananas are very common. They have a yellow to orange tint and a smooth and creamy consistency, tasting like honey-flavored custard. They’re a little smaller than Cavendish Bananas, with a length of four to six inches.
As the name implies, red bananas have a reddish-purple skin. They have a lighter pink flesh and are sweeter and softer than Cavendish bananas. They also have a faint raspberry flavor that is difficult to overlook.
Lady Finger Banana
Cavendish bananas are sweeter and smaller than Lady Finger bananas, also known as baby bananas. They have a smooth feel and a soft taste with honey notes, and they’re normally about three inches long.
Blue Java Banana
Because of their sweet vanilla taste and strong creaminess, blue Java bananas are also known as ice cream bananas. They have a lovely blue peel and white flesh. They’re also very hardy and can thrive in even the coldest climates.
Plantains, also known as cooking bananas, are a subgroup of bananas. They are usually used in savory dishes due to their high starch content. They aren’t always eaten raw. In West and Central Africa, the Caribbean islands, and Central America, they’re a staple snack.
With a touch of crunchy apple-strawberry taste, the Manzano Banana is sweeter than Cadvendish bananas. They’re grown in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. They have short, chubby skins that turn black when completely mature.
Burro bananas have a lemony, tangy flavor, making them one of the most uncommon banana varieties. Compared to Cavendish bananas, they have a flatter, smaller, and more square appearance. The flesh is creamy white or yellow in color and soft with a hard base.
The Barangan banana has a sweet, moderate flavor and is yellow with tiny black dots. The body is white and devoid of seeds. It’s a common variety that’s served as a dessert in many tropical regions.
A group of scientists in Honduras developed the Goldfinger banana as a pest-resistant banana. When it’s green, it can be cooked, and when it’s completely ripe, it can be eaten raw. It’s similar to the Cavendish banana, with the aim of eventually replacing the disease-prone variety.
Historical Background (Origin) of Banana
Bananas (Musa spp.) were first domesticated in New Guinea from naturally occurring parthenocarpic (seedless) individuals of Musa acuminata banksii. Before the arrival of Austronesian speakers, Papuans cultivated these. Banana phytoliths dating from 10,000 to 6,500 years ago have been found at the Kuk Swamp archaeological site. Cultivated bananas migrated westward from New Guinea into Island Southeast Asia due to proximity (not migrations). In the Philippines, northern New Guinea, and probably Halmahera, they hybridized with other (possibly separately domesticated) Musa acuminata subspecies as well as Musa balbisiana. These hybridization events resulted in the triploid banana cultivars that are now widely cultivated. They extended from Island Southeast Asia to Oceania, East Africa, South Asia, and Indochina as part of Austronesian staple crops and ancient maritime trade routes.
The “true” plantains, which include the East African Highland bananas and the Pacific plantains (the Iholena and Maoli-Popo’ulu subgroups), are the product of these ancient introductions. East African Highland bananas were brought to Madagascar from the area between Java, Borneo, and New Guinea, while Pacific plantains came from either eastern New Guinea or the Bismarck Archipelago.
The discovery of phytoliths dated from the first millennium BCE in Cameroon sparked an ongoing controversy over when Africa’s first crops were cultivated. Bananas were recognized in Madagascar at the time, according to linguistic data. Cultivation seems to have begun no earlier than the late sixth century CE, according to the earliest evidence. Bananas were most likely introduced to Madagascar, if not to the East African coast, during the Malagasy colonization of the island from South East Asia around 400 CE.
Bananas were later introduced to other parts of tropical Asia, especially Indochina and the Indian Subcontinent, in a second wave of introductions. However, phytoliths discovered at the Kot Diji archaeological site in Pakistan show that bananas were known to the Indus Valley Civilisation (although they are absent in other contemporary sites in South Asia). This may be an example of very early banana dispersal by sea by Austronesian merchants as early as 2000 BCE. However, this is just a guess, since they may have originated from local wild Musa species used for fiber or ornamentation rather than fruit.
The banana’s main diversity is also found in Southeast Asia. Secondary variation is seen in Africa, suggesting that the continent has a long tradition of banana production.
On the eve of Islam, the banana could have been found in scattered areas in the Middle East. The propagation of Islam was accompanied by widespread dissemination. Beginning in the 9th century, there are various references to it in Islamic literature (such as poetry and hadiths). The banana first appears in texts from Palestine and Egypt in the 10th century. It spread from there to North Africa and Muslim Iberia. Bananas from Granada were known as some of the finest in the Arab world during the Middle Ages. The banana was introduced to Palestine by Islamic conquerors in the year 650. During Ramadan, the month of daytime fasting, banana intake grows sharply in Islamic countries.
By the late medieval era, bananas were undoubtedly grown in the Christian Kingdom of Cyprus. Gabriele Capodilista, an Italian traveler and journalist, praised the extensive farm produce of the estates at Episkopi, near modern-day Limassol, including the region’s banana plantations, in a letter written in 1458.
Bananas were introduced to the Americas by Portuguese sailors in the 16th century, who brought the fruits from West Africa.
In India, China, and Southeast Asia, there are a wide variety of wild banana species and cultivars.
Portuguese colonists founded banana plantations in the Atlantic Islands, Brazil, and western Africa during the 15th and 16th centuries. Soon after the Civil War, North Americans started eating bananas on a small scale at very high prices, but it wasn’t until the 1880s that the fruit became more widely available. Bananas were not commonly recognized in Europe until the Victorian era, despite the fact that they were readily available. In Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne presents bananas to his readers with extensive explanations (1872).
Jamaica and the Western Caribbean Zone, which includes much of Central America, were the birthplaces of modern plantations. It included combining modern steamship and railroad transportation networks with the invention of refrigeration, which allowed for more time between harvest and ripening. The process was begun in the 1870s by North American shippers like Lorenzo Dow Baker and Andrew Preston, the founders of the Boston Fruit Company, but railroad builders like Minor C. Keith also participated, ultimately resulting in multi-national giant companies like Chiquita Brands International and Dole. These corporations were monopolistic, vertically organized (i.e., they dominated growing, processing, shipping, and marketing), and they often used political sway to create enclave economies (economies that were internally self-sufficient, virtually tax exempt, and export-oriented that contribute very little to the host economy). Working with local leaders and their rivalries to manipulate politics or playing the foreign interests of the United States, particularly during the Cold War, to maintain the political climate favorable to their interests gave rise to the term Banana republic for states like Honduras and Guatemala.
Nutritional (Composition) Value of Banana
Bananas are packed with numerous nutritional compositions which made it a household name worldwide. Here are the nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of both types of bananas when ripe and raw
|Dessert bananas||Cooking bananas (plantains)|
|Protein||1 gram||1 gram|
|Carbohydrates||23 grams||32 grams|
|Fiber||2 grams||3 grams|
|Fat||less than 1 gram||less than 1 gram|
|Vitamin B6||18% of the Daily Value (DV)||15% of the DV|
|Vitamin C||15% of the DV||31% of the DV|
|Provitamin A||1% of the DV||23% of the DV|
|Potassium||10% of the DV||14% of the DV|
|Magnesium||7% of the DV||9% of the DV|
Bananas are both nutritious and tasty. They’re high in vital nutrients and can help with metabolism, heart health, and weight loss. They are also a very handy snack food, in addition to being very nutritious. Here are some of the most impressive banana health benefits backed by science.
Contains Several Nutrients
Bananas are high in fiber, as well as a number of antioxidants. One medium-sized banana (118 grams) contains potassium (9% of the RDI), vitamin B6 (33% of the RDI), vitamin C (11% of the RDI), magnesium (8% of the RDI), copper (10% of the RDI), manganese (14% of the RDI), net carbohydrates (24 grams), fiber (3.1 grams), protein (1.3 grams) and fat (0.4 grams). Each banana contains approximately 105 calories and is almost entirely made up of water and carbohydrates. Bananas are low in protein and nearly fat-free. Starch and resistant starch make up the majority of the carbohydrates in green, unripe bananas, but when the banana ripens, the starch transforms into sugar (glucose, fructose and sucrose).
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Pectin, a form of fiber found in bananas, is responsible for the flesh’s spongy structure. Resistant starch, present in unripe bananas, behaves like soluble fiber and resists digestion. By slowing the emptying of your stomach, pectin and resistant starch can help to regulate blood sugar levels after meals and reduce appetite.
Bananas also have a low to medium glycemic index (GI), which is a scale ranging from 0 to 100 that shows how rapidly foods lift blood sugar levels. Unripe bananas have a GI of around 30, while ripe bananas have a GI of around 60. Bananas have an overall value of 51. This means that in people who are healthy, bananas do not trigger significant blood sugar spikes. People with type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, should generally stop eating a lot of well-ripened bananas and closely check their blood sugar if they do.
Many health benefits have been related to dietary fiber, including better digestion. Bananas have around 3 grams of fiber per medium-sized banana, making them a decent source of fiber. Bananas contain two main types of fiber, pectin (decreases as the banana ripens) and resistant starch (found in unripe bananas). Resistant starch gets through your digestive tract and winds up in your large intestine, where it feeds your intestinal bacteria.
Helps in Weight Management
Bananas have a number of properties that make them a good weight-loss snack. Bananas, for instance, have a low calorie count. Although a banana contains just over 100 calories, it is also highly nutritious and filling. More fiber from vegetables and fruits like bananas has been attributed to lower body weight and weight loss on several occasions. Furthermore, since unripe bananas are rich in resistant starch, they are really filling and can help you lose weight.
Enhances Cardiovascular Health
Potassium is an important mineral for heart health, including blood pressure management. Despite its value, only a limited percentage of the population consume enough potassium. Bananas are a healthy source of potassium in the diet. 9 percent of the RDI is contained in one medium-sized banana (118 grams). Potassium-rich foods can help reduce blood pressure, and potassium-rich individuals have a 27 percent lower risk of heart failure. Bananas also contain a significant amount of magnesium, which is beneficial to heart health.
Bananas are a good source of dietary antioxidants, as are other fruits and vegetables. Dopamine and catechins are two kinds of powerful antioxidants found in them. Antioxidants have been linked to a variety of health effects, including a lower risk of heart failure and degenerative diseases. However, it is a common misconception that bananas contain dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical in the brain. Dopamine from bananas, on the other hand, does not cross the blood-brain barrier. Instead of affecting hormones or mood, it actually serves as a powerful antioxidant.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance, like type 2 diabetes, is a significant risk factor for many of the world’s most dangerous diseases. Resistant starch is abundant in unripe bananas. As a result, they can aid in improving insulin sensitivity.
Improves Kidney Health
Potassium is essential for blood pressure regulation and kidney protection. Bananas can be particularly helpful for kidney health because they are a good source of potassium in the diet. Those who ate bananas 2–3 times a week had a lower risk of developing kidney disease than those who do not.