Bananas are Amazing!
Did you know there are over 1000 kinds of bananas in the world? In the United States of America, we usually only eat one kind, the Cavendish banana, which unfortunately is being threatened by the fungal Panama Disease. Scientists are working to create a resistant banana before the disease hits Latin America, where the majority of bananas are grown.
Here are some photos of some different sizes and colors of bananas. Botanists, scientists who study plants, say that a banana is a type of berry. It is the fruit of the banana plant, which is not really a tree, even though they can grow more than 12 feet tall. They are actually an herb distantly related to ginger, since the banana plant has an herbaceous stem instead of a woody one.
Bananas grow upside down in BIG bunches like the women at the Tanzanian market carry on their heads. The huge purple thing on the end of the stalk is the banana flower, also called the banana heart. The heart or flower is also edible.
Normally the ones we find at the grocery store are picked while green and ripened atthe store or in your home. You can put green bananas in a brown paper bag where the ethylene gas made by the bananas can build up and make them ripen faster. You can also ripen other fruit like peaches or pears with the paper bag trick. Adding a banana to the peaches in the bag will speed up the process even more. If you don't want your nice ripe yellow bananas to get all brown and spotted you can separate each banana in the bunch and wrap each stem individually in plastic wrap. This prevents the ethylene gas from escaping as fast and slows down the ripening process.
Since banana plants have been commercially grown, the plants are sterile and the seeds have gradually been reduced to tiny specs. That is why you can’t get a banana plant by burying one from the grocery store. So how do you grow a banana plant? Basically, you clone the original plant by separating shoots growing from the main stem. Banana offshoots are also called pups or suckers. Can you grow your own banana tree? Yes, even if you live in a cold climate. The Musa variety is cold resistant, and the Basjoo variety can even survive Minnesota winters. You can find them on the internet. A farm that raises banana plants is called a plantation. Each shoot only produces one bunch of bananas, so they are often harvested by simply cutting down the main stem.
You might have noticed plantains for sale at your grocery store. They look like a big green banana. Plantains are a species of banana used for cooking instead of eating raw. You can bake, fry, boil, roast, or mash plantains and add them to stew, soup, rice, and many other dishes. In Tanzania, almost every meal includes plantains or bananas.
Banana Peel Uses
Banana peel also has many uses. You can put a peel on a splinter to help loosen the foreign fragments in the skin and heal the wound. To stop a scratched DVD or CD from skipping, rub it with a banana peel to fill in the scratches without damaging the plastic finish. Rub it on your skin to remove ink stains or sooth insect bites. Banana peel can be used to remove warts, polish shoes, dust plants, or even whiten your teeth. If you are a gardener, grind up banana peel, used coffee grounds, and empty egg shells in a blender or food processor. Add a spoonful of the mixture to your houseplants or garden plants as fertilizer. Visit 20 Uses for Banana Peels for more ideas.