Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Banana is the common name for a type of fruit of the genus Musa. They are native to the tropical region of Southeast Asia. It is believed that bananas are likely to have first been domesticated in Papua New Guinea. Today, they are cultivated throughout the tropics.

Bananas are cultivated primarily for their fruit and to a lesser extent for the production of fibre and as ornamental plants. As the banana plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy they are often mistaken for trees, but their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem (literally "fake stem"). For some species this pseudostem can reach a height of up to 2 to 8 m, with leaves of up to 3.5 m in length. Each pseudostem can produce a bunch of yellow, green or even red bananas before dying and being replaced by another pseudostem. Therefore, the banana plant is actually the world's largest herb!

The banana fruit grow in hanging clusters, with up to 20 fruit to a tier (called a hand), and 3 to 20 tiers to a bunch. The total of the hanging clusters is known as a bunch, or commercially as a "banana stem", and can weigh from 30 to 50 kg. The fruit averages around 125 grams, of which approximately 75 per cent is water. Each individual fruit (known as a banana or 'finger') has a protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with a fleshy edible inner portion. Bananas are a valuable source of vitamin A, vitamin Bs (such as B6, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic Acid), vitamin C, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium Iron and Zinc. It carries around 140 calories, averaging about 2 grams of protein, 4 grams of fibre, 2 mgs of sodium and 36 grams of carbohydrate.

It is said that the true origin of bananas is found in the region of present day Malaysia. Bananas are said to travel from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BC. In his campaign to India in 327 BC, Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana. He is even credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 AD. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese masses until the 20th century.

Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the south-eastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 AD, Islamic warriors travelled into Africa and were actively engaged in the slave trade. Along with the thriving business of slave trading, the Arabs were also trading ivory along with abundant crops of bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. By 1402, Portuguese sailors discovered the luscious tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary lslands with their first banana plantations.

Continuing the banana's travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo from the Canary Islands in the year 1516. It wasn't long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean as well as Central America.

Arabian slave traders are credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa as well as Southeast Asia were not the eight-to-twelve-inch giants that have become familiar in the supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man's finger. Ergo the name banan, Arabic for finger. The Spaniards, who saw a similarity to the plane tree that grows in Spain, gave the plantain its Spanish name, platano.

Putting all of the nutritional figures together clearly shows the banana is among the healthiest of fruits. Not only delicious eaten as is, The banana can also be cooked in breads, cakes and muffins, fried as a snack either battered or made into chips and cooked in curries.

Source: Wikipedia,


hong said...

I tasted banana grown in Hainan Island while travelling in China, it was bland ! I could not finish the banana.

VG said...

I really miss the bananas I used to eat in Malaysia especially the pisang emas. Here, you can only get 3 types of bananas!