If you are like most people, you probably do not give a second thought to the sweet banana, one of the few fruits available year-round. If you’re ever stranded on a desert island, just hope and pray it contains a banana tree bearing the world’s most perfect fruit. Although it has a long pedigree, the sweet yellow banana is a mutant strain which developed from original red and green cooking bananas most often called plantains. Although primarily eaten out of hand or in desserts, sweet bananas can also be used as an accent in savory dishes.
Bananas are herbs
Although referred to as banana trees, they are not trees at all but a perennial herb. Its trunk is not a true one, but many leaves tightly wrapped around a single stem which emerges at the top as the fruit-bearing flower stalk.
The fruit fingers grow in clumps known as hands,since they resemble a hand with fingers. The entire stalk, known as a bunch, takes up to a year for the fruit to ripen enough to be harvested. The original stem dies after producing fruit, but sideshoots rise from the same underground corm to produce a new plant to be harvested the following year. The fruit itself is sterile, unable to produce a plant from the miniscule dark seeds within.
Some banana trees continue producing up to one hundred years, although most banana plantations renew their stock every ten to twenty-five years.
The tree itself also has uses. The leaves are used as wrappers to steam foods in Latin, Caribbean, and Asian cultures. The banana flower is also edible, but if you eat the flower, you obviously won’t get any fruit.
The banana is a distant cousin to ginger, turmeric, and cardamom, and is botanically classified as a berry.
There are over four hundred varieties of bananas with the yellow Cavendish being the most favored in America. Americans consume an annual average of twenty-five pounds of bananas per person. Bananas are the world’s best-selling fruit, outranking the apple and orange.