(Musa sapientum)


    Family: Musaceae
    Genus: Musa
    Species: Musa sapientum
    Common Names: Banano
    Cultivation: While the original bananas contained large seeds, todays bananas contain small seeds that have been hybrid for so many years they are steril. Therefore plants are propagated asexually from offshoots. The plant is allowed to produce 2 shoots at a time; a larger one for immediate fruiting and a smaller "sucker" or "follower" to produce fruit in 6Ė8 months. The life of a banana plantation is 25 years or longer, during which time the individual stools or planting sites may move slightly from their original positions as lateral rhizome formation dictates.
    With all the fresh fruits around here you have had to notice all the different types of bananas. From the small apple banana to the plantain they all belong to the heliconia family.

    That’s right, many of the beautiful flowers around here are in the same family but that’s another story. Hopefully it is will be good to know that every part of the banana plant is usable

    A little history on the banana is more than just a little interesting so I will start there and move onto the health, medicinal, then useful and fun facts of these incredible fruits.

    I won’t even go off on my usual tirade about the United Fruit Company who was commercially exploitative. That was where the term "Banana republic" was coined for states like here and Honduras, representing the fact that the company and their political backers created and abetted "servile dictatorships" whose primary motivation was to protect the company.

    If you want to learn any more about that aspect of this topic, Google it or click click here.

      Fruit of the wise men
    Fruit of the wise men

    It is not really known for a fact, but believed bananas originated in Malaysia because so many varieties of bananas are found there today. Bananas were probably the first fruit farmed by man, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. Their history is recorded all the way back to Alexander the Great's conquest of India, where he first discovered bananas in 327 B.C.

    Like gossip or “chisme” changing from mouth to mouth, bananas received a new name each time a different group of people were introduced to them. Centuries ago bananas were called "banna" and "ghana " and even "funana."

    The Africans are credited with giving the banana its permanent name. In India, bananas were called "Fruit of the Wise Men." According to Indian legend, wise men meditated under the shady, green leaves of banana plants.

    Bananas do not grow on trees! The banana “plant” is the largest herbaceous flowering plant in the world. But the plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy and are often mistaken for trees when the trunks are actually layers of leaves. Their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem that grows 6 to 7.6 meters (20 to 24.9 ft) tall, growing from a corm. Each pseudostem can produce a single bunch of bananas one time. After fruiting which on the average here, takes about one year, then the pseudostem dies.

    Bananas have been so highly hybrid that any seeds they may have are actually sterile. Today bananas are planted from cuttings and not from seeds; almost all plants virtually are clones of each other, representing a minimum of genetic variety. Commercial interests in breeding better bananas are not high because banana is a particularly difficult crop to breed on account of its sterility and lack of seeds.

    The banana plant has been a source of fiber for high quality textiles for centuries. In Japan, banana cultivation for clothing and household use dates back to at least the 13th century. In the Japanese system, leaves and shoots are cut from the plant periodically to ensure softness. Harvested shoots are first boiled in lye to prepare fibers for yarn-making. These banana shoots produce fibers of varying degrees of softness, yielding yarns and textiles with differing qualities for specific uses. For example, the outermost fibers of the shoots are the coarsest, and are suitable for tablecloths, while the softest innermost fibers are desirable for kimono and kamishimo. This traditional Japanese cloth-making process requires many steps, all performed by hand.

    In a Nepalese system the trunk is harvested instead, and small pieces are subjected to a softening process, mechanical fiber extraction, bleaching and drying. After that, the fibers are sent to the Kathmandu Valley for use in rugs with a silk-like texture.

    These banana fiber rugs are woven by traditional Nepalese hand-knotting methods, and are sold “RugMark” certified. Banana fiber is also used in making banana paper. Banana paper is used in two different senses: to refer to a paper made from the bark of the banana plant, mainly used for artistic purposes, or paper made from banana fiber, obtained with an industrialized process from the stem and the non-usable fruits.

    The paper itself can be either hand-made or in industrial processes. It is easy to make and can also be used like paper mache to mold and create cool things. If there’s any interest, I would be willing to do a workshop on that.

    Oops, I was going to get into the nutritional and medicinal uses first. As hot as it gets around here, this could be valuable information for you. I tell people that to live here you have to become one with sweating and itching.

    Well the sweating part can quickly deplete your system of important nutrients that can, if not attended to, cause heat stroke. One of the largest body chemicals is potassium. Look at this list and see how high the content of potassium is.

Documented Properties
& Actions:
Anaemia, Blood Pressure, Constipation, Hangovers, Heartburn, Morning Sickness, Nerves, Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.
They are native to tropical Southeast Asia, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. Today, they are cultivated throughout the tropics. They are grown in at least 107 countries, primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent to make fiber and as ornamental plants.

Bananas are among the most widely consumed foods in the world. Most banana farmers receive a low price for their produce as grocery companies pay discounted prices for buying in enormous quantity. Price competition among grocers has reduced their margins, leading to lower prices for growers. Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole, and Fyffes grow their own bananas in Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras. Banana plantations are capital intensive and demand significant expertise. The majority of independent growers are large and wealthy landowners in these countries. Producers have attempted to raise prices via marketing them as "fair trade" or Rainforest Alliance-certified in some countries.

The banana has an extensive trade history beginning with the founding of the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita) at the end of the nineteenth century. For much of the 20th century, bananas and coffee dominated the export economies of Central America. In the 1930s, bananas and coffee made up as much as 75% of the region's exports. As late as 1960, the two crops accounted for 67% of the exports from the region. Though the two were grown in similar regions, they tended not to be distributed together. The United Fruit Company based its business almost entirely on the banana trade, because the coffee trade proved too difficult to control. The term "banana republic" has been applied to most countries in Central America, but from a strict economic perspective only Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama had economies dominated by the banana trade. That was where the term "Banana republic" was coined for states like here and Honduras, representing the fact that the company and their political backers created and abetted "servile dictatorships" whose primary motivation was to protect the company.

Botanical Traits. The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. Plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy and are often mistaken for trees, but their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem that grows 6 to 7.6 metres (20 to 24.9 ft) tall, growing from a corm. Each pseudostem can produce a single bunch of bananas. After fruiting, the pseudostem dies.

Propagation and Culture.

Southeast Asian farmers first domesticated bananas. Recent archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence at Kuk Swamp in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea suggests that banana cultivation there goes back to at least 5000 BCE, and possibly to 8000 BCE. It is likely that other species were later and independently domesticated elsewhere in southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is the region of primary diversity of the banana. Areas of secondary diversity are found in Africa, indicating a long history of banana cultivation in the region.

Medicinal Uses:

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia. Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect food for helping to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has recently allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke. Brain Power: 200 students at an English school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives. Even though itís more often the other way around here.

Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin - known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier. Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body so if you suffer from heart-burn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods (such as bananas) every two hours to keep levels steady.

Pain Reliever: The oil in a banana peel will help relieve the pain from burns and scratches.

PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer, trypotophan.

Smoking: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking, as the high levels of Vitamin C, A1, B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Splinter Removal: Similar to wart removal, tape a piece of the peel over the splinter. The enzymes will help dislodge the splinter and heal the wound.

Stop the Itch: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation instantly. I havenít tried it on a tabano bite yet, but hope I donít need to any time soon.

Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water-balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be re-balanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in "The New England Journal of Medicine" eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%! Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a "cooling" fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronic ulcer cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Wart Removal: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that, if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

Other Uses

Shoe Polish: Use the peel to make your kicks nice and shiny. Fortunately, my crocks donít need it.

Make Houseplants Glisten: Just like peels can shine shoes, they can also be used to make the leaves of plants shine.

Your Garden Grow: Bananas are naturally high in potassium and encourages plant growth. Use banana peel or puree entire banana and bury with soil.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
Calories 95
Moisture 74.1 g
Protein 2.1 g
Lipids 1.1 g
Glycerides 22.0 g
Fiber 3.0 g
Ash 0.7 g
Calcium 96.0 mg
Phosphorus 45.0 mg
Iron 1.8 mg
Vitamin B, 0.2 mg
Vitamin B2 0.2 mg
Niacin 3.4 mg
Ascorbic Acid 49.0 mg
Amino Acids (mg per g of nitrogen [N 6.25])
Lysine 316 mg
Methionine 178 mg
Threonine 219 mg
Tryptophan 57 mg