The banana is America’s favorite fruit and enjoys popularity around the world, so much so that the United Nations has declared it the fourth most important crop in the world.
While 90 percent of bananas, more often starchy plantain varieties, are grown on small farms in tropical areas and eaten locally, the lucrative export business of sweet bananas, largely from Latin America and the Caribbean, is worth $5 trillion a year.
No other fruit can claim the conveniences of the banana. It is harvested while still green and firm so is easy to ship. It comes with a built in wrapper, which keeps it clean and uncontaminated and makes it easy to eat. You can tell how ripe it is just by looking at it. And best of all, it has soft, sweet, tasty flesh rich in vitamins A, C and B6 and the minerals calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Bananas may be familiar to us, but the banana “tree” is a strange being. It’s not really a tree at all, but a giant, almost palm-like plant more closely related to grass than to maples or pines. And while the giant purplish flower is one of the largest blossoms in the world, it produces no seeds. When we bite into a banana, it’s hard to imagine that the original wild fruit was riddled with hard seeds that made it inedible.
Ancient humans discovered seedless variants and grew more and more of them through cuttings, eventually resulting in the sweet, creamy fruit we enjoy today. When it comes to eating bananas, personal preference prevails. Some people prefer fruit with some green at the tip, while others like bananas that are pure golden yellow. For cooking, really ripe fruit is used. When the bananas are mashed to be included in a batter, their skins should be dark brown or black.
By Greg and Dorothy Patent
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