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For other meanings, see: Banana, Australia, Banana, Democratic Republic of the Congo

A banana is a tree-like plant of the genus Musa in the family Musaceae, closely related to plantain. The term banana is also applied to the elongated fruit (technically a false berry), which grows (in edible species and varieties) in hanging clusters, several to many fruits to a tier (called a hand), many tiers to a bunch. The total of hanging clusters is called a 'stem' in the commercial world.

Table of contents
1 Properties
2 Banana extinction
3 Nutritional value and dietary effects
4 Fair trade
5 Urban legends
6 See also
7 External links


Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors. The ripe fruit is easily peeled and eaten raw or cooked. Depending upon variety and ripeness, the flesh can be starchy to sweet, and firm to mushy. Unripe or 'green' plantains and bananas are used in cooking and are the staple starch of some tropical populations.

The commercial sweet varieties most commonly eaten in temperate countries (species Musa acuminata or the hybrid Musa x paradisiaca, a cultigen) are imported in large quantities from the tropics, where they are popular in part because they are available fresh year-round.

While the original bananas contained rather large seeds, seedless and triploid varieties have been selected for human consumption. These are propagated asexually from offshoots of the plant. These offshoots are called followers or suckers in the trade, and one or two of them are the source for the next stem of fruit the plant produces, because the plant is normally chopped down at the time of harvest. A stem of bananas can weigh as much as 100 lb (45 kg), and they are usually carried on the shoulder.

Bananas have been used in the making of jam. However unlike other fruits, bananas haven't been used to prepare juice and squashes. Despite an 85 percent water content, it has been difficult to extract juice from the fruit because when mashed it simply turns to pulp. In 2004, scientists at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), India, patented a technique for extracting juice by treating banana pulp in a reaction vessel for four to six hours [1].

Banana chips are a snack produced from bananas.

Banana extinction

In 2003 Belgian plant pathologist Emile Frison of the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain stated that the dominant commercial banana variety Cavendish may become extinct within 10 years.

The limited genetic diversity of cultivated bananas (which is due to their asexual reproduction) make them vulnerable to diseases such as black Sigatoka (or a new strain of Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease). The [magazine]] New Scientist added, "We may see the extinction of the banana, currently a lifesaver for hungry and impoverished Africans and the most popular product on the world's supermarket shelves."

However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Cavendish bananas make up about 10% of the total world banana crop, with small-scale farmers continuing to grow numerous other varieties. The predecessor to the Cavendish, the Gros Michel, had suffered a similar fate.

Nutritional value and dietary effects

Bananas contain about 74% water, 23% carbohydrates, 1% proteins, 0.5% fat, and 2.6% fiber (these values vary with variaty of banana, degree of ripeness and growing conditions). In an unripe banana the carbohydrates are mostly starches. In the process of ripenening the starches are converted to sugars; a fully ripe banana has only 1-2% starch. High sugar content means banana have higher energy content than less sweet fruits such as apples or oranges.

Besides being a good source of energy, banana is a rich source of potassium, and hence is highly recommended for patients suffering from high blood pressure.

It is claimed that bananas have beneficial effect in the treatment of intestinal disorders, including diarrhoea (diarrhea). Bananas are unusual in that they work for constipation too. They contain mucilaginous bulking substances and are easy to digest. Other fruit which may also be good for intestinal conditions include mangoes, figs, pineapple, and papaya.

Fair trade

Bananas are among the most widely consumed fruits in the world. However, many banana farmers receive a low price for their produce. This has led to bananas being available as a 'fair trade' item in some countries.

Urban legends

It is an urban legend that the dried skin of banana fruit is hallucinogenic when smoked. Unlike many urban legends, the origin of this one has been traced. It dates back to an article in the student newspaper Berkeley Barb in March 1967, which got the story from the singer Country Joe. This was brought to attention once more in the late 1980s, when the satiric punk group Dead Milkmen published an album concerning the effects of smoking banana peels. Even the FDA investigated.

In the 1940s and 1950s, an urban legend about bananas involved tarantulas arriving in the neighborhood hidden among the hands of the banana bunch (the idea that exotic spiders can arrive with bananas appears to be not completely a myth however, see external link for an instance in the UK in 2003).

See also

External links