A Banana Republic Modern Woman Perfume is an edible fruit – botanically a berry produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. In some countries, bananas used for cooking may be called "plantains", distinguishing them from dessert bananas. The fruit is variable in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe. The fruits grow in clusters hanging from the top of the plant. Almost all modern edible seedless (parthenocarp) bananas come from two wild species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The scientific names of most cultivated bananas are Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana, and Musa × paradisiaca for the hybrid Musa acuminata × M. balbisiana, depending on their genomic constitution. The old scientific name Musa sapientum is no longer used.
Musa species are native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. They are grown in 135 countries, primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent to make fiber, banana wine, and banana beer and as ornamental plants. The world's largest producers of bananas in 2016 were India and China, which together accounted for 28% of total production.
Worldwide, there is no sharp distinction between "bananas" and "plantains". Especially in the Americas and Europe, "banana" usually refers to soft, sweet, dessert bananas, particularly those of the Cavendish group, which are the main exports from banana-growing countries. By contrast, Musa cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called "plantains". In other regions, such as Southeast Asia, many more kinds of banana are grown and eaten, so the binary distinction is not useful and is not made in local languages.
The term "banana" is also used as the common name for the plants that produce the fruit. This can extend to other members of the genus Musa, such as the scarlet banana (Musa coccinea), the pink banana (Musa velutina), and the Fe'i bananas. It can also refer to members of the genus Ensete, such as the snow banana (Ensete glaucum) and the economically important false banana (Ensete ventricosum). Both genera are in the banana family, Musaceae.
The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. All the above-ground parts of a banana plant grow from a structure usually called a "corm". Plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy, and are often mistaken for trees, but what appears to be a trunk is actually a "false stem" or pseudostem. Bananas grow in a wide variety of soils, as long as the soil is at least 60 cm deep, has good drainage and is not compacted. The leaves of banana plants are composed of a "stalk" (petiole) and a blade (lamina). The base of the petiole widens to form a sheath; the tightly packed sheaths make up the pseudostem, which is all that supports the plant. The edges of the sheath meet when it is first produced, making it tubular. As new growth occurs in the centre of the pseudostem the edges are forced apart. Cultivated banana plants vary in height depending on the variety and growing conditions. Most are around 5 m (16 ft) tall, with a range from 'Dwarf Cavendish' plants at around 3 m (10 ft) to 'Gros Michel' at 7 m (23 ft) or more. Leaves are spirally arranged and may grow 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) long and 60 cm (2.0 ft) wide. They are easily torn by the wind, resulting in the familiar frond look.
Are Bananas good for you?
Americans eat an average of 27 pounds of bananas per person per year—making it the most heavily consumed fruit in America. But some carb and calorie conscious consumers have relegated bananas to the “do not eat” list because of the fruit’s high sugar and calorie count relative to some other fruits.
That rationale is misguided, says Jessica D. Bihuniak, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. “Nobody gets fat or develops diabetes from eating too many bananas,” Bihuniak says—or from eating too much of any fruit, for that matter. And as with all fruits, bananas are loaded with a bevy of nutrients, some of which promote a healthy heart, gut, and waistline.
Bananas Have a Bunch of Nutrients
Bananas are perhaps best known for their potassium count, with a large banana containing about 490 mg of this electrolyte—a mineral that becomes electrically charged in your bloodstream and that governs heart rate and nerve and muscle function. The body carefully maintains levels of potassium and sodium (another electrolyte) to keep fluid levels in balance.
Americans tend to consume too much sodium and not enough potassium, Bihuniak says, and when the two get out of sync, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, and therefore up the risk for heart attack and stroke. Research also suggests that keeping those levels harmonized can be beneficial for bone health.
“Most people need 4,700 mg of potassium each day,” says Ellen Klosz, a nutritionist at Consumer Reports. “So if you eat bananas in addition to other healthy, potassium-rich foods—such as legumes, other fruits, veggies, nuts, and dairy—they can be a great way to help meet your daily need.”
Bananas also supply about a third of your daily recommended vitamin B6 need. Vitamin B6 helps regulate the levels of the amino acid homocysteine in your blood, which when unchecked can harden the arteries and increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, Bihuniak says.
A Versatile Package
Bananas are most easily eaten raw as a snack, but there’s a surprising number of other ways you can enjoy them. They can be crushed into a juice, puréed into a smoothie, dehydrated into a chip, and even turned into flour. You can freeze bananas and purée them into an ice-cream-like frozen dessert.
“Topping oatmeal, plain yogurt, or peanut butter and toast with banana slices is an excellent way to add nutrition and sweetness without added sugar,” Klosz says.
Bananas are also portable. “They come in their own protective cover,” Klosz says, “making them an easy, healthy snack on the go.”
And at about 56 cents per pound, they’re hard to beat at the checkout counter.