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Bananas
Bananas

About bananas Edit

Bananas are tropical fruits with sweet, soft, creamy flesh and yellow peels. The most common variety, the Cavendish, can be purchased when the peel is still green and ripened at room temperature. Other varieties have red skin and pink flesh.

Bananas are the most popular fresh fruit in the United States. They have a peel that comes off easily, they ripen after they've been picked, there is a generous supply all year, and they are inexpensive. Bananas have both a high amount of carbohydrates as well as potassium, which also makes them the fruit of choice for many athletes. (Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, 1992).

A banana plant is a herb in the genus, Musa, which because of its size and structure, is often mistaken for a tree. It is cultivated for its fruit, which also bears the same name. Bananas are of the Family Musaceae and closely related to plantains. Globally, bananas rank fourth after rice, wheat and maize in human consumption; they are grown in 130 countries worldwide, more than for any other fruit crop. Bananas are native to tropical southeastern Asia.

The main or upright growth is called a pseudostem, which when mature will obtain a height of 2–8 m (varies by cultivar), with leaves of up to 3.5 m in length. Each pseudostem produces a single bunch of bananas, before dying and being replaced by a new pseudostem. The base of the plant is a rhizome (known as a corm). Corms are perennial, with a productive lifespan of 15 years or more.

The term banana is applied to both the plant and its elongated fruit (technically a false berry) which grow in hanging clusters, with up to 20 fruit to a tier (called a hand), and 5-20 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 30–50 kg. The fruit averages 125g, of which approximately 75% is water and 25% dry matter content. Bananas are a valuable source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium.

In 2003, India led the world in banana production, representing approximately 23% of the worldwide crop, most of which was for domestic consumption. The four leading banana exporter countries were Ecuador, Costa Rica, Philippines, and Colombia; accounted for about two thirds of the worlds exports; with each exporting more than 1 million tons. Ecuador alone provided more than 30% of global banana exports according to FAO statistics.

Bananas are classified either as dessert bananas (meaning they are yellow and fully ripe when eaten) or as green cooking bananas/plantains. Almost all export bananas are of the dessert variety; however, only about 10-15% of all production is for export, with the U.S. and EU being the dominant buyers.

Bananas and plantains constitute a major staple food crop for millions of people in developing countries. In most tropical countries green (unripe) bananas used for cooking represent the main cultivars. Cooking bananas are very similar to potatoes in how they are used. Both can be fried, boiled, baked or chipped and have similar taste and texture when served. Nutritionally one green cooking banana has about the same nutritional and calorie content as one potato.

The vast majority of producers are small-scale farmers growing the crop either for home consumption or for local markets. Because bananas and plantains will produce fruit year-round, they provide an extremely valuable source of food during the hunger season (that period of time when all the food from the previous harvest has been consumed, and the next harvest is still some time away). It is for these reasons that bananas and plantains are of major importance to food security.

Scientific name Edit

  • Musaceae

Selection Edit

Avoid bananas with brown spots that seem very soft. Select those bananas with a nice color, specific for the variety. Choose fruit that is firm and free of bruises. Best eating quality has been reached when the solid yellow skin color is speckled with brown. Bananas with green tips or with practically no yellow color have not developed their full flavor. Bananas are overripe when they have a strong odor.

This is the only fruit that actually gets better if it is picked while it is unripe. When choosing a ripe banana, choose a plump yellow banana with brown flecks. Avoid any with blemishes.

Green bananas can be bought and allowed to ripen at home on the countertop, or they can be placed in a brown paper bag with holes pierced through it.

Storage Edit

Bananas should typically be stored, unpeeled at room temperature to encourage ripening. Once ripe they can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days in order to stunt the fruit's ripening. The peel may turn brown in the refrigerator, but the fruit will not change. Peeled bananas should be eaten immediately lest they discolor due to exposure to the air.

Bananas can be frozen, but as many frozen fruits they tend to lose much of their texture during the thawing process. Typically they can be safely frozen for up to 3 months. This must also be done after the fruit has ripened as exposure to freezing temperatures can halt the fruit's ability to ripen.

Lastly, Bananas are an ethylene producing fruit, and as a result will ripen quicker if not given room to breathe. In addition, storing Bananas with other fruits will cause other fruits to ripen quicker as well.

Varieties Edit

The very popular yellow banana of Cavendish is the banana we see in grocery stores. However, Plantains, Finger Bananas and Red Bananas are also popular varieties. Most have a soft texture when ripe.

There are hundreds of varieties of bananas grown around the world. The Cavendish is the most popular in the United States. Other varieties that may be found in specialty markets are: Burro, Blue Java, Dwarf, Manzano, Mysore, Orinoco and the plantain.

Geography Edit

Bananas are only grown in hot, humid, tropical climates.

Nutritional Qualities Edit

High in carbohydrates, low in fat, high in potassium and Vitamin C.

Trivia Edit

Once peeled, a banana will turn brown fast! To avoid this from happening, brush the banana with lemon juice.

Over-ripe bananas may be frozen in a plastic bag until enough bananas have been saved to make banana bread! Thaw before using.

Wine Pairings Edit

Zinfandel Blanc, Vouvray.

Equivalencies Edit

1 lb. fresh = 3 medium bananas = 2 cups sliced = 1¾ cup mashed = 1 cup dried

Additional Information Edit

http://www.uffva.org

Banana Recipes Edit

Source Edit

  • Fruit of the Month: Banana by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public domain government resource—original source of article
  • Parts of this article were originally published at Suite101.com.

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