Enjoy banana fruit; nature’s energy-rich food that comes with a safety envelope! Fresh, creamy, and delicious dessert bananas are one of the cheapest and readily available fruits all year round.
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 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 2 to 6 meters in height from the ground surface depending upon the cultivar types. At maturity, the rhizome gives rise to a flower (inflorescence) which is carried up along actual (true) core stem (smooth un-branched stem) which pass through the center of the pseudostem. The flower finally emerges out at the top in-between leaf clusters. The inflorescence subsequently develops to a large hanging bunch, consisting of 3 to 20 hands (tiers of fruit), with each hand carrying at least 5-10 fingers (fruits).
There are several cultivars of banana that comes in a different size (4-9inches), color (yellow to brown), weight (70-150g) and taste. Structurally, it has a protective outer skin layer enveloping around delicious, sweet and tart, cream white edible flesh.
Plantains are other cultivar types; often recognized as cooking bananas. They are intimately related to natural fruit (dessert) bananas. Plantains employed as a staple food 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 a 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 the favorite 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 grams) that helps in regular bowel movements; thereby reducing constipation problems.
It contains health promoting flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, 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 a good source of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine); provides about 28% of daily-recommended allowance. Pyridoxine is an essential B-complex vitamin that has a beneficial role in the treatment of neuritis, and anemia. Further, it helps decrease homocysteine (one of the triggering factors in coronary artery disease (CHD) and stroke episodes) levels within the human body.
The fruit is also an ideal 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 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 harmful effects of sodium.
Selection and storage
Once ripen, bananas are one of the very fragile fruits which start decaying in short span of time. In the farms, entirely grown up bananas harvested while still firm and green. It allows them for easier handling and transportation.
To ripen, they usually subjected to ethylene spray or kept in 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 to 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 with cake/ ice cream in the Caribbean style dessert.
Banana chips (plantain) enjoyed as a snack (produced from dehydrated or fried banana or plantain slices).
Add mashed ripe banana fruits to cakes, casseroles, muffins, bread-pudding, etc.
Plantains and raw unripe banana can be employed as a vegetable in recipes.
Eating banana fruit may result in skin and systemic allergic reactions in some 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 cross hypersensitivity reactions to the birch tree and other pollens.
The other type of allergic reaction is related to latex. The symptoms may include urticaria and sometimes potentially severe gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.