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Banana is the common name for a type of herb and also the name for the herbaceous plants that grow this herb. These plants belong to the genus Musa. They are native to the tropical region of Southeast Asia. There are about 100 different species of banana.
Most banana plants are grown for their herbs, but some are grown as ornamental plants, or for their fibres. In parts of Africa, beer has been made by fermenting the juice of certain cultivars, known as beer bananas. The ash of banana can be used to make soap. In Asia, bananas are often planted to provide shade to plants that like shade, for example coffee, cocoa, nutmeg or black pepper. Because of this, banana plants can often be found in plantations of other crops.
Some kinds, or cultivars, of banana have a firmer, starchier fruit. These kinds are called plantains. Plantains are mostly used for cooking or fibre. The sweet, soft bananas that are used for desserts are called dessert bananas.
The banana plant
The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. Banana plants are often mistaken for trees. Bananas have a false stem (called pseudostem), which is made by the lower part of the leaves. This pseudostem can grow to be two to eight metres tall. Each pseudostem grows from a corm. A pseudostem is able to produce a single bunch of bananas. After fruiting, the pseudostem dies and is replaced. When most bananas are ripe, they turn yellow or, sometimes, red.
The banana fruits grow from a banana heart in hanging clusters, also called a bunch or banana stem. The fruits grow in rows called tiers or hands. There can be as many as twenty fruits to a hand, and as many as twenty tiers in a bunch. A bunch usually weighs between 30 and 50 kilograms (65 to 110 pounds).
A single fruit weighs about 125 grams (4.4 ounces) on average; about three quarters of this is water.
Each banana (or finger) has a protective outer layer (called peel or skin). There is a fleshy part inside that readily spilts into three segments. It is the only known tri-segmented fruit in the world. Both the skin and inner part can be eaten. Western cultures generally eat the inside raw and throw away the skin while some Asian cultures eat both the skin and inside cooked.[source?] Each fruit has many strings that run between the skin and the inner part.
Growing and trading bananas
Bananas are grown in at least 107 countries. In popular culture and commerce, "banana" usually refers to soft, sweet "dessert" bananas. The bananas from a group of cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called plantains. Bananas may also be cut and dried and eaten as a type of chip. Dried bananas are also ground into banana flour.
The banana species growing in the wild have fruits with many hard, large seeds. Almost all bananas grown to be eaten have seedless fruits. Bananas are classified either as dessert bananas or as green cooking bananas. Almost all export bananas are of the dessert types. Only about ten to fifteen percent of all production is for export. Dessert bananas change their color and usually turn yellow, when they are ripe; plantains and bananas generally used for cooking stay green. Certain bananas have other colors when ripe.
The countries that produce the most bananas include India, Brazil, China, Ecuador and the Philippines. The top five countries that exported bananas were Ecuador, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Colombia and Guatemala. The United States, the European Union and Japan buy the most bananas. Bananas are among the most valuable agricultural export products; They provided about sixty percent of export earnings of Saint Lucia and about twelve percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the country, between 1994 and 1996.
Some people are allergic to bananas. There are two basic forms of these allergies. The first is known as oral allergy syndrome. Within an hour of eating a banana, swelling starts inside the mouth or throat. This allergy is related to allergies caused by pollen, like that of the birch tree. The other is similar to latex allergies. It causes urticaria and potentially serious upper gastrointestinal symptoms.
Different uses of bananas
The fibre gained from the banana plant has been used to make textiles for a long time. In Japan, bananas have been grown to be used for clothing and in the house since at least the 13th century. In the Japanese system, the leaves and shoots are cut from the plant periodically to make sure they are soft. The harvested shoots must first be boiled in lye to prepare the fibres for the making of the yarn. These banana shoots produce fibres of varying degrees of softness. They can be used for yarns and textiles of different qualties, and for specific uses. For example, the outermost fibres of the shoots are the coarsest - they are good for tablecloths. The softest innermost fibres are desirable for kimono and kamishimo. This traditional Japanese banana cloth making process has many steps, all performed by hand.
Another system is used in Nepal. There the trunk of the banana plant is harvested instead. Small pieces of this trunk are then softened. The fibres are extracted mechanically, bleached, and dried. They are then sent to the Kathmandu Valley, where high-end rugs are produced. These rugs have a texture and general qualities similar to that of silk. These banana fibre rugs are woven by traditional Nepalese hand-knotted methods.
Banana fibre is also used to make banana paper. There are two different kinds of banana paper: Paper made from the bark, and paper made from the fibre and from unused fruits.
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- "Uses of Musa" (pdf). UNCTAD. 1996. http://www.unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/banana/Doc/musa.pdf.
- Yes, we have more bananas published in the Royal Horticultural Society Journals, May 2002
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- See Greenearth, Inc., Banana Plant Growing Info. Retrieved 2008.12.20.
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- "Traditional Crafts of Japan - Kijoka Banana Fiber Cloth". Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries. http://www.kougei.or.jp/english/crafts/0130/f0130.html. Retrieved 11-12-2006.
- Media related to Banana at Wikimedia Commons
- "bananas". ssrichardmontgomery.com. http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com/download/bananas.htm. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "Banana: Beneficial for Human". healthmad.com. http://healthmad.com/nutrition/banana-beneficial-for-human/. Retrieved 3 June 2010.