Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 | crankit

Wecome to the banana republic

Musa acuminata


The banana plant, a giant perennial herb, and its long slender fruit have been known and used since ancient times, surprisingly even before the cultivation of rice. The banana’s origin is thought to be East Asia and Oceania. From there, the originally red and green varieties spread to Africa. The banana was named Musa after Antonius Musa, the personal physician to the 1st emperor of Rome, Augustus. Antonius’ brother, Euphorbus, discovered the banana while in Africa as physician to the king of Numidia, an ally of Rome. He sent samples to Antonius, urging the banana’s cultivation and use. Antonius promoted it so successfully that it has carried the family name ever since.

In the early 1400’s Portuguese sailors found the herb around the Guinea (west African) coast – where it was known as the banema (hence the English name banana) – and carried it to the Canary Islands. From there, the Spaniards transported it to the West Indies, where it spread like wildfire. Jamaica, 1836, saw the mutation of the original red and green bananas into a yellow variety. This new fruit could be eaten raw; it was sweet and delicious; and soon overtook the other two in popularity.

The fruit: A banana is perfectly ripe only when the skin becomes generously speckled with brown. Unripe bananas do not break open readily and will have the skin adhere to the fruit inside. Unripe bananas are mostly starch and hard to digest and have high levels of tannins which contribute to the bitter taste and give them a puckery nature.

Varieties: There are over 300 varieties of bananas, here are 3 well known types: Ladyfingers (also known as Chicaditas) – small, sweet yellow fruit;
Red bananas (or Clarets) – thick red skins and a dark, creamy and richer taste, more aromatic, smoother and sweeter flesh and higher oil content than the yellows;
Yellow bananas (e.g. Cavendish) produce a large, straight, compact bunch.

Source of

Potassium, fibre, energy, magnesium, vitamin A, folic acid.

Good for

Digestion (contain lots of fibre), muscular and nervous systems, chronic fatigue syndrome and glandular fever. Antibiotic and antifungal properties are found in both the peel and pulp of fully ripened bananas. The sugars in bananas also feed the good bacteria of the bowel (acidophilus), their pectin content helps heal ulcers and lower blood cholesterol. They are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, known to promote sleep, and contain enzymes that assist in the manufacture of sexual hormones.

Ripe bananas are especially good for young children and infants, as they are easily digested. Unripe bananas will tend to be constipating, while ripe ones are more laxative.


Although most are present in the skins, pesticide residues are found in almost every non-organic banana tested. Fungicide residues are common, as well as a mixture of pesticides. There are reports from Central America of whole villages, set in the middle of vast banana plantations, being crop dusted along with the banana trees, and whole generations of locals suffering birth defects and various cancers.

Organically grown bananas are free of residues.