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Enjoy banana fruit; nature’s own energy-rich food that comes with a safety envelope! Fresh, creamy, and delicious dessert bananas are one of the cheapest and readily available fruits year around.
Botanically, it belongs to the family of Musaceae. Commercially, it is one of the widely cultivated crops in the tropical and subtropical zones. Scientific name: Musa acuminata colla.
|Banana (Musa acuminata colla).|
Banana is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows from the underground rhizome. It flourishes well under tropical, moisture-rich, humid, low-lying farmlands.
Banana has unique growth characteristics. In fact, the whole plant is a false stem (pseudostem). This pseudostem is consisting of broad leaves, together with their long petioles, overlapping each other in a disc-like fashion. The whole plant may reach upto 2 to 6 meters tall from the ground surface depending upon the cultivar types. At maturity, the rhizome gives rise to a flower (inflorescence) which is carried up along true core stem (smooth un-branched stem) which pass through the centre of pseudostem. The flower finally emerges out at the top in-between leaf clusters. The inflorescence subsequently develops to a huge hanging bunch, consisting of 3 to 20 hands (tiers), with each hand carrying at least 5-10 fingers (fruits).
|Banana plant.||Raw mature banana put for sale in a market.
Photo courtesy: tanbis19
There are several cultivars of banana that comes in different size (4-9inches), color (yellow to brown), weight (70-150g) and taste. Structurally, it has a protective outer skin layer and delicious, sweet and tart, creamy-white edible flesh inside.
Plantains are other cultivar types more often known as cooking bananas. They closely related to familiar fruit banana or dessert banana. Plantains are used as a staple diet in many parts of tropical African and Caribbean regions as well as in Thailand, Laos, and other Southeast Asian parts.
Health benefits of banana fruit
- Banana is one of the high calorie tropical fruits. 100 grams of its flesh carries 90 calories. Besides, it contains good amount of health benefiting fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
- Banana fruit is composed of soft, easily digestible flesh made up of simple sugars like fructose and sucrose that upon consumption instantly replenishes energy and revitalizes the body. Thus, for these qualities, it is one of popular quick-bites among athletes to get instant energy. It is also one of the recommended supplement food included in the treatment plan for under-nourished children.
- The fruit holds a good amount of soluble dietary fiber (7% of DRA per 100 g) that helps in normal bowel movements; thereby reducing constipation problems.
- It contains health promoting flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin, alpha and beta-carotenes; albeit, in small amounts. Together, these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
- Banana is good source of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine); provides about 28% of daily-recommended allowance. Pyridoxine is an important B-complex vitamin that has beneficial role for the treatment of neuritis, and anemia. Further, it helps decrease homocystine (one of the triggering factor in coronary artery disease (CHD) and stroke episodes) levels within the human body.
- The fruit is also a moderate source of vitamin-C (about 8.7 mg per 100g). Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Fresh bananas provide adequate levels of minerals like copper, magnesium, and manganese. Magnesium is essential for bone strengthening and has a cardiac-protective role as well. Manganese is utilized as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is an essential trace element in the production of red blood cells.
- Fresh banana is a very rich source of potassium. 100 g fruit provides 358 mg potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure, countering bad effects of sodium.
Selection and storage
|Banana fruits on a plantain leaf.|
Once ripen, bananas are one of very fragile fruits which start decaying in short span of time. In the farm field, mature bananas generally harvested while they are still green and firm which makes them easier for handling and transportation.
In order to ripen, they usually subjected to ethylene spray or kept in close proximity with other ripe fruits.
In the stores, choose banana fruits based on when you want to eat them; greener ones should last for more days, while yellow and brown-spotted bananas should be eaten within a few days.
Ready to eat bananas should be bright yellow, and emanate rich fruity aroma. Ripe banana peels off easily. Ripe, fresh fruits are nutritionally enriched and sweeter in taste than unripe, raw green ones.
Avoid mushy or damaged bananas, as they are un-appealing.
Preparation and Serving methods
Bananas come with nature gifted protective outer layer of skin, and therefore, less likely to be contaminated by germs and dust.
- Eat banana fruit as it is without any additions. Just discard its peel and enjoy!
- Banana fruit sections are a great addition in fruit salads.
- Fresh “banana-milkshake” with sugar syrup is a refreshing drink.
- Bananas have also been used to prepare fruit jams.
- Grilled banana fruit can be served on cake/ ice cream in the Caribbean style dessert.
- Banana chips (plantain) enjoyed as snack (produced from dehydrated or fried banana or plantain slices).
- Mashed ripe banana fruits can be added to cakes, casseroles, muffins, bread-pudding, etc.
- Plantains and raw unripe banana can be employed as vegetable in recipes.
Oftentimes, banana fruits known to cause skin and systemic allergic reactions in sensitive persons. The fruit may be the cause of “oral allergy syndrome” in which the symptoms may include itching and swelling around the mouth or throat within hours after ingestion. The condition may be related to birch tree and other pollen allergies.
The other type of allergic reaction is related to latex. The symptoms may include urticaria and sometimes potentially serious gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.