Naturally sweet, full of nutrition, versatile and easy use in many healthy recipes. I have so much love and appreciation for bananas. They are a true gift from the gods.
Bananas are the world's No.4 dietary staple after rice, wheat and corn. Hundreds of millions of people eat them. They are the most widely eaten fruit in the world and are a major source of food and staple of people in tropical areas and the developing world.
History of Bananas
Bananas may be the world's oldest cultivated crop. There is evidence that bananas were cultivated in the highlands of New Guinea at least 7,000 years ago and that Musa varieties were being bred and grown in the Mekong Delta area of Southeast Asia as long as 10,000 years ago.
In the first or second millennium B.C. Arab traders carried banana suckers from Southeast Asia back home and introduced the fruit to the Middle East and the east coast of Africa.
Swahili people from the coast of Africa traded the fruit with Bantu people from the interior of Africa and they carried the fruit to western Africa. The introduction of the banana to Africa occurred so long ago that areas of Uganda and the Congo basin have become secondary centers of genetic diversity.
Bananas were discovered by the Portuguese on the Atlantic coast of Africa. They cultivated the fruit on the Canary Islands. From there it was introduced to the Americas by Spanish missionaries.
Documenting the arrival of bananas in the New World a Spanish historian wrote: “This special kind [of fruit] was brought from the Island of Gran Canaria in the year 1516 by the Reverend Father Friar Tomas de Berlandga...to the city of Santa Domingo whence the spread to the other settlements on this island [of Hispaniola]...And have been carried to the mainland, and in every part they have flourished."
Seasonality and availability
Bananas are the No. 1 fruit export in the world. The worldwide trade of bananas is worth $4 billion a year. About 80 million tons of bananas produced around the world. Less than 20 percent is exported, with 15 percent are exported to the United States, Europe and Japan.
Bananas have traditionally been a cash crop for banana companies in Central America, northern South America, and the islands of the Caribbean. In 1954, the price of bananas rose so high it was called "green gold." Today bananas are grown in 123 countries.
India, Ecuador, Brazil and China collectively produce half the world's banana crop. Ecuador is the only leading producer that is oriented towards producing bananas for the export market. India and Brazil, the world's leading producers, export very little.
Worldwide more and more countries are raising bananas which means the price is getting lower and lower and smaller producers have a rougher time. Since 1998, worldwide demand has dropped. This has led to overproduction and a further drop in prices.
There are over hundred different varieties of banana. They have names like Pelipita, Tomola, Red Yade, Poupoulou, and Mbouroukou. Some are long and skinny; others are short and squat. Many are only tended locally because they bruise easily.
Reddish bananas, known as palle bananas and red orinocos, are popular in Africa and the Caribbean. Tiger plantains are dark green with white stripes.
Bananas know as maantoke are eaten raw and cooked in porridge and fermented into banana beer in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and other places in sub-Sahara Africa. Africans eat hundreds of pounds of these a year. They are such a vital source of food that in many in Africa mantooke simply means food.
The Cavendish is the long, golden-yellow variety most commonly sold in stores. They have good color; are uniform in size; have a thick skin; and are easy to peel. Banana afficionados complain their taste is bland and sweet. The Gros Michel (meanings "Big Mike") was the most common supermarket variety until the 1950s when crops worldwide were wiped out by the Panama disease.
The Cavendish was unaffected by the disease and emerged as No. 1 export banana. But it too is vulnerable to diseases, It produces no seeds or pollen and can no be bred to improve it resistance. Many believe it too will one day be wiped out by a devastating disease.
Bananas contain a fair amount of fiber, as well as several antioxidants. One medium-sized banana also contains:
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 10% of the RDI
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI
- Net carbohydrates: 24 grams
- Fiber: 3.1 grams
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams
Health benefits of bananas
Supports heart health
Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health — especially blood pressure control. Despite its importance, few people get enough potassium in their diet.
Bananas are a great dietary source of potassium. One medium-sized banana contains 9% of the RDI. A potassium-rich diet can help lower blood pressure, and people who eat plenty of potassium have up to a 27% lower risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, bananas contain a decent amount of magnesium, which is also important for heart health.
Improve digestive health
Dietary fiber has been linked to many health benefits, including improved digestion. A medium-sized banana has about 3 grams of fiber, making bananas a fairly good fiber source.
Bananas contain two main types of fiber:
- Pectin: Decreases as the banana ripens.
- Resistant starch: Found in unripe bananas.
Resistant starch escapes digestion and ends up in your large intestine, where it becomes food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut
Energising Sports food
Bananas are easy to digest and the food of choice of many professional athletes when they are competing because they provide quick energy and provide potassium lost during exercise.
How to use
Bananas are great in muffins, pancakes, breads and cakes. Blend them into smoothies. Freeze bananas and blend for healthy ice-cream. The possibilities are plentiful,
My favourite banana recipes
Try out some of my favourite recipes featuring bananas
Interesting banana facts
Wild bananas are pollinated almost exclusively by bats. The tubular flowers are produced on a dangling stalk. The flowers at the top are initially all female. Those running down the sides are males.
The seeds are dispersed by animals that eat the fruit. When the seeds are developing the fruit tastes bitter or sour because the undeveloped seeds are not ready for animals to eat. When the seeds are fully developed the fruit changes colour to signal it is sweet and ready for animals to eat---and the seeds are ready to be dispersed.
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