Bananas are the fourth most popular agricultural product in the world, with more than 100 billion pieces consumed every year. They first appeared in written history in the 6th century BC. The first banana farms were located in Southeast Asia, and bananas were probably the world’s first cultivated fruit. Bananas started appearing in the markets of the United States in the early 19th century and have been a favorite ever since.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Zingiberales
- Family: Musaceae
- Genus: Musa
- Species: acuminate
- Binomial name: Musa acuminate
- The banana plant is the largest herb in the world.
- Americans eat an average of 27 pounds of bananas per individual per year
- Ninety-six percent of American households buy bananas at least once a month from their local stores
- Bananas come in many colors, including red
- Bananas contain a lot of potassium, making them more radioactive than any other fruit (don’t worry! It’s Safe!)
- Spots on a banana only make it sweeter
Banana Buying Guide
As with any other fruit, look for bananas that are full, plump, and bright in color. Avoid bananas that have visible bruising on the skin as this can signal that the fruit inside is damaged as well.
Choose the right banana, depending on when you want to consume them. If you’re going to eat the bananas within a day or two from purchase, buy the ones that are bright yellow with brown spots. Fully ripe bananas have no trace of green on the surface. Don’t worry about the specks on the surface of the skin, those brown ones? Those are called sugar specks, and those mean that the bananas are as sweet as they can be.
If you want bananas to last you the whole week, choose the yellow-colored ones with a small amount of green at the ends, these bananas are at the middle of the ripening spectrum.
Banana Production & Farming in Texas
The banana plant needs 10 to 12 consecutive months of frost-free and sunny weather for it to bear fruit. This is one of the reasons why there are no big commercial banana plantations in Texas. The Texas weather is acceptable for banana tree growing, but the winter chills can quickly destroy the flowers and prevent them from bearing fruit. In the cooler regions, banana plants are grown for ornamental use. In the warmer areas of Texas, there are a number of small banana plantations that produce dwarf cavendish, “horse” banana, and ladyfinger bananas.
Even though bananas aren’t on the “Dirty dozen” list when it comes to pesticide contamination and residue, it still is helpful to note that commercial banana producers use at least 35 pounds of pesticides per acre of banana plants.
While the banana’s thick skin protects the edible part from pesticide residue, there will always be some in the exterior.
The banana plant thrives in soft, crumbly, and loamy soils. It needs tropical temperatures, a high level of humidity, and lots of rain to bear fruit. While the Texas climate seems like the perfect temperature for growing bananas, chills, and temperatures in the high 20s can kill the flowers and leaves. Some growers in the Rio Grande Valley are successfully growing bananas, but only if the previous winter was mild enough not to affect the flowers and the leaves.
Commercial bananas are harvested green and unripe so that they will survive the long ocean voyages from banana producing nations. They are transported in temperature-controlled container vans. Once they reach the United States, they are then inspected by a ripening manager and then treated with pressurized air and ethylene for the ripening process to continue.
Depending on the variety, eating a banana is pretty straightforward. Break if off the bunch, peel it, then eat it. No special tools are required.
Never leave bananas inside plastic bags/packaging. This causes moisture to build up and cause the bananas to rot.
If your bananas are still green and unripe when you purchased them, you can leave them on the counter to ripen. Don’t place unripe bananas in the fridge or freezer; they might not ripen properly even if they’re brought back to room temperature.
If you have space, hang your bananas to avoid bruising of the skin.
If your bananas are fully ripe and you want them to last a few days longer, you can store them with other unripe fruit. This slows down the bananas’ ripening process and speeds up the ripening of the other fruits. It’s a win-win!
There are varieties of bananas that need to be cooked to enjoy them fully. One of the most used “cooking” varieties of bananas is the plantain. Plantains can be sliced super thin and fried to make a chip-like snack. They can also be baked with cinnamon and sugar. They can be pan-fried with brown sugar. They can even be grilled! There are endless ways to prepare cooking bananas.
Bananas are one of the few fruits that are still useful if they’re overripe. Overripe bananas can be baked into several different recipes, like banana bread, banana cakes, pies, and a whole lot more. In fact, a lot of these recipes call for overripe bananas as opposed to perfectly ripe bananas.
Bananas are some of the most important fruits on the planet. They’re a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
- The carb content of bananas changes depending on how ripe/unripe they are.
- Green bananas contain more starch in the form of carbs, while ripe bananas contain sugars.
- In fully ripe bananas, the total sugar content can reach up to 16% of the total weight.
- Even though it has a high carb content, the glycemic index for bananas is relatively low at 42-58.
- Bananas contain a good amount of resistant starch as well as fiber. Aiding the digestion process and promotes healthy blood sugar levels.
- Vitamins and minerals:
- Bananas are an excellent source of potassium. Potassium helps enhance muscle strength, metabolism, water balance, and electrolytic functions.
- Vitamin B6 – One medium-sized banana can provide up to a third of the required daily intake of Vitamin B6.
- Vitamin B6 promotes brain health.
- Prevents and treats anemia by promoting blood/hemoglobin production.
- Your body does not produce Vitamin B6; it must be obtained from food or pills. (food is the best way to go, not only is it safer, it’s tastier too)
- Vitamin C – Just like with any brightly colored fruit, bananas are an excellent source of Vitamin C, which boosts your immune system and provides a lot of health benefits.