All about bananas

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Banana farmerBananas are the most popular fruit in the world. The banana is, in fact, not a tree but a high herb that grows up to 15 metres. It is believed that there are almost 1000 varieties of bananas in the world, subdivided in 50 groups. The most commonly known banana is the Cavendish variety, which is the one produced for export markets.

Bananas are grown in more than 150 countries, producing 105 million tonnes of fruit per year. The bananas grown for local consumption are generally grown in traditional, extensive systems. Dessert bananas account for 43 million tonnes per year and are of huge economic importance for many countries in the South. Cooking bananas (plantains and others) account for 45 million tonnes. Locally consumed bananas, which are a staple food in many tropical countries, play a major role in terms of food security.

It is believed that the earliest written reference to banana is in Sanskrit and dates back to around 500 BC. Bananas are suspected to be the first fruit in the earth by some horticulturists. Their origin is placed in Southeast Asia, in the jungles of Malaysia, Indonesia or Philippines, where many varieties of wild bananas still grow today. Africans are credited to have given the present name, since the word banana would be derived from the Arab for ‘finger’. They started to be traded internationally by the end of fourteenth century. The development of railroads and technological advances in refrigerated maritime transport subsequently enabled bananas to become the most important world traded fruit.

Banana facts

  • On average each person in the UK eats 10kg bananas a year – about 100 bananas!
  • In Britain, we eat over five billion bananas every year
  • The word banana comes from the Arabic word "banan", meaning finger
  • The banana plant is not a tree, it is the world's largest herb
  • The "trunk" of a banana plant is not made of wood, it is made of tightly overlapping leaves
  • Bananas could help you to feel happier as they contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to promote relaxation and improve mood
  • The inside of a banana skin can be used to calm an itchy mosquito bite - many people find that rubbing the bite with the skin helps to reduce irritation
  • A medium-sized banana contains only 95 calories, and provides a quick-but-sustained energy boost in a natural, nutritious and easily digestible form with no fat, cholesterol or sodium
  • British Banana supplier, Fyffes, received its first consignment of bananas 124 years ago, in September 1888
  • A stem of bananas consists of “hands”, which consist of 10 to 20 bananas.  When a hand is split, the bananas become “clusters”, which generally consist of between three to eight bananas
  • The inside of a banana skin can be used to polish shoes!