A Banana is an edible fruit which varies in size, colour and firmness. It is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a skin which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe. The fruits grow in clusters hanging from the top of the plant. Banana crops are vulnerable to destruction by high winds, such as tropical storms or cyclones. As a non-seasonal crop, Bananas are available fresh all year-round.
The Banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. All the above-ground parts of the plant grow from a structure usually called a corm. Banana plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy and are often mistaken for trees. The leaves are composed of a ‘stalk’and a ‘blade’. When a Banana plant is mature, the corm stops producing new leaves and begins to form a flower spike. After fruiting, offshoots will normally have developed from the base.
The skin has numerous long, thin strings which run lengthwise between the skin and the edible inner portion. Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive because of their potassium content and the small amounts of the isotope potassium-40 found in naturally occurring potassium. Bananas are a good source of fibre, potassium and Vitamin C.
Keep Bananas in a fruit dish at room temperature. If you want them to ripen faster place the bowl in the sun. Never store Bananas in the refrigerator. Below 8ºC they will decay from the inside and will not ripen, but will turn black.
In North America and Europe, these fruits can be divided into ‘bananas’ and ‘plantains’, based on their intended use as food. The differences are normally that ‘plantains’ are more starchy and less sweet than Bananas and they are eaten cooked rather than raw. They have thicker skins, which may be green, yellow or black and they can be used at any stage of ripeness. In Southeast Asia Bananas are used both raw and cooked. There are starchy cooking Bananas which are smaller than those eaten raw. The range of colours, sizes and shapes is far wider than in those grown or sold in Africa, Europe or the Americas. Farmers in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea first domesticated Bananas, back to at least 5000BC.
Bananas were introduced to the Americas by Portuguese sailors who brought the fruits from West Africa in the 16th century. There are many wild species of Bananas in Asia including fuzzy Bananas whose skins are bubblegum pink, green and white striped Bananas with pulp the colour of orange sherbet and Bananas that, when cooked, taste like strawberries!