(POSTED: May 5, 2007)
Bananas - little known facts!
Bananas have been grown and cultivated as a food source for a million years, but only recently has the banana’s full potential become widespread.
Bananas, the economical delicious fruit, is easy to peel, which makes it a great lunch box item even for the very young. Ounce for ounce, the fruit of a banana is a good source of Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, which also adds to its appeal.
The banana is the most popular fruit in North America, and is one of the few fruits that must be imported. About four million bananas, grown and harvested year-round, are imported to North America each year.
The banana, believed to have originated from the jungles of Asia, is grown on the world’s largest herb plant. Because banana plants reach heights of 15-30 feet, and the stem is not make of wood, the plant is susceptible to damage by winds. Wind traveling at 25 mph can damage or destroy a banana field within minutes. For this reason, each banana plant is supported by a sturdy pole.
The fruit of the banana plant grows on a stem. On average, some 150 bananas grow on each stem. The fruit is ready to be harvested 8-10 weeks after its appearance on the plant. Bunches of bananas are referred to as hands, while a single banana is called a finger. A cluster of bananas is anywhere from four to eight individual fruits.
The fruit is harvested green, then shipped to special ripening facilities where it will take anywhere from three and a half to seven days to finish ripening. It takes about two and a half weeks for the fruit to be harvested, ripened, and placed on supermarket shelves.
Once in the home, bananas should be keep at room temperature, or hung on a banana hook for the best results. Bananas can be placed in the refrigerator for slower ripening. The peeling will darken, but the fruit will remain firm for several days. Bananas also can be frozen. Remove peeling and store in airtight bags or containers.
Green or green-tipped bananas are best for cooking and/or broiling. The fruit actually ripens best off the plant, so don’t be afraid to purchase green bananas. When left on the plant too long, they fruit tends to split open and become tasteless. Yellow bananas are perfect for eating fresh or adding to your favorite salad or sandwich. Brown-speckled bananas, or ripe and/or overripe fruit are still good for baking. In order to ripen a green or green-tipped banana in your home, place it in a brown paper bag for a couple of hours. It’s possible to hasten the ripening process of other fruits and vegetables by placing them in a brown paper bag overnight with several ripe bananas. To keep them from ripening too quickly, keep them at a temperature of 57 degrees.
Other interesting fact about bananas include: propagation of the banana plant is done through shoots from the rhizomes; banana seeds are sterile; in order to grown and propagate, the banana plant must have tropical sunny temperatures, rich soil, and lots of water; virtually all bananas are grown in southern tropical countries and imported to the states; the three largest banana companies in operation as of 1999 were Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole, and together they have cornered more than 60 percent of the world banana market.
Banana peel has its uses as well. The peeling makes a good fertilizer for rose bushes. Simply dig a hole near the rose bush and bury the peeling.
Since bananas have made their appearance in North America, the only time they have been conspicuously absent was in 1941 when both American and British governments requisitioned all large ships–including boats transporting bananas-- to aid in WWII war efforts.