The banana plant, or Musa acuminata, is one of the most important fruiting plants on Earth. This plant belongs to the Musaceae family, also known as the “banana family”. The genus Musa refers to “large herbaceous flowering plants” with fruit that is usually elongated and curved, with a yellow, purple, or red rind covering soft starchy fruit (Merriam-Webster). Banana plants are often mistaken for trees, because their “false stem” or pseudostem resembles a tree trunk. However, trees are dicots with organized vascular bundles while banana plants are monocots, which have scattered vascular bundles. The average cultivated banana plant stands at 16 feet tall, although they may range from 10 to 23 feet (Nelson 26). A mature banana plant forms an inflorescence at the top of the pseudostem, a structure known as the “banana heart”. Each banana heart usually develops bunches of banana fruits made up of tiers (called “hands”) with as many as 20 fruit to a tier. “Cultivated bananas are sterile and develop the typical seedless fruits without the need for pollination” (Van Wyk). Bananas are one of the most important fruits because of the role they play in the global economy, food security, and the everyday lives of people around the world.
Bananas originated in Southeast Asia, which is still the center of banana diversity in flavor, scent, texture, color, shape, and size. However, bananas were most likely domesticated first in Papua New Guinea, where cultivation can be traced back to times between 5000 and 8000BC. Around 1000AD, the banana crop spread to Africa through Indo-Malaysian immigrants who colonized Madagascar, and also to the Pacific region (Van Wyk). In the 15th and 16th centuries, banana plantations began to sprout up in the Atlantic Islands, Brazil, and western Africa under the care of Portuguese colonists. Shortly following the Civil War, North Americans started eating bananas on a small and expensive scale. In the 1880s, banana consumption in the United States became a lot more widespread due to advancements in transportation and refrigeration (Koeppel). Today, Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined (Koeppel). This development of modern transportation networks and storage materials allowed for the introduction of the earliest modern banana plantations located in Jamaica and other regions in the Western Caribbean Zone and Central America (New Zealand Herald).
This yellow fruit has played a big role in economies all over the world. Banana plants are currently being produced in over 107 different countries, primarily for their and less frequently for producing fiber, banana wine, and as ornamental plants. The 2011 study of production and exportation of bananas and plantains by the Food and Agricultural Organization found that worldwide, we produced a total crop of 145 million metric tonnes. India led the world by producing 20% of this, followed by Uganda, China, the Philippines, and Ecuador. However, the leading exporters of bananas and plantains were Ecuador (which exported 5.2 million metric tonnes, making up 29% of worldwide banana and plantain exportation) followed by Costa Rica, Colombia, the Philippines, and Guatemala. Although plantains were included in this study, Ecuador did specify that 93% of its exportation statistic was made up of solely bananas (FAOSTAT).
The delicious fruit is used frequently in the daily lives of people around the world. Bananas can be eaten raw or baked in both savory and sweet dishes. Some popular examples are fruit salads, milkshakes, yogurts, pancakes, breads, and the famous banana split. Plantains are not distinguished from bananas in some parts of the world because they are very similar, but can be differentiated by their lower sugar and higher starch content. Plantains are usually used as a vegetable in African and West Indian cuisine. Bananas are cultivated on an extremely large scale in tropical regions, so they remain a big staple in the diets of...
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