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The History And Evolution Of Banana Hybrids
Bananas are the world’s favorite fruit and many nations depend on banana trees to supply their citizens with this delicious food product that saves them from starvation. Bananas are available in markets throughout the year and are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and contain only small, hollow seeds that are infertile. Ornamental bananas, ‘Musa ensete’ and ‘Musa nana’ are inedible, but are in high demand for landscaping.
India is the world’s largest producer of bananas, and Alexander the Great discovered them growing in 327 BC when he conquered India. Alexander the Great’s soldiers returned to Greece and Persia with the bulbs of the banana plant, ‘Musa accuminata’, where they were distributed and planted.
Antonius Musa, the personal physician of Augustus Caesar, imported the first banana trees, ‘Musa accuminata’, to Rome from Africa in 63 BC. Kr. Later, slaves from Portugal brought bananas to Europe from Africa in the early 1400s. Although the banana is believed to have originated in India (East Asia), it became a staple food product in Africa and Europe many centuries ago, and it arrived in North America via Spanish missionaries.
Those first bananas that people knew in antiquity were not sweet like the bananas we know today, but were cooking bananas or plantain bananas with a starchy taste and texture. The bright yellow bananas we know today were discovered by the Jamaican Jean Francois Poujot as a mutation of the plantain banana in 1836. He found this hybrid mutation growing in his plantation of bananas that taste sweet and are yellow in color – instead of green or red, and do not require cooking like plantain bananas. The rapid establishment of this new exotic fruit was welcomed worldwide and began to be mass-grown for world markets.
Bananas are the best-selling fruit in the world, outselling apples and citrus; it is estimated that each American eats 25 pounds of fruit every day. The ‘Cavendish’ banana is the most popular banana in the United States, and there are more than 400 banana varieties available on world markets. The leaves of banana trees are used as wrappers for steaming other foods, and the banana flower is also edible.
Each banana comes from a flower that ripens into groups of 10-20 bananas called “arms” that circle the stem, collectively called a “bunch.” Bananas can take one year to mature after flowering in the field, and then the parent banana plant dies. The plant is renewed the following season with shoots from the parent plant. An original bunch of banana trees can grow continuously for 100 years, but they are usually replaced in banana tree plantations after 25 years. Bananas ripen best and develop more sweetness if the bunch is removed from the tree, allowing the fruit to ripen off the tree in a shady spot and ripen slowly.
A banana tree can grow up to 30 feet tall and the trunk of the tree grows over 1 foot wide. The trunk of a banana plant consists of overlapping sheaths and stems with new growth emerging from the center of the trunk. The size of a banana can vary from a fruit the size of a soccer ball to one as small as a child’s finger. Some bananas have a sweet taste, some are starchy and some decorative bananas are full of large seeds and are considered inedible. The color of ripe bananas can vary from green, orange, brown, yellow or spotted with white stripes.
Most banana trees available today are grown from “mother” bulbs by taking offshoots that form shoots. They can be replanted to multiply and increase the banana plantation. These banana sprouts that form at the base of the ‘mother’ bulb can be shipped around the world to many countries because they are almost genetically identical to the original parent banana plant 10,000 years ago that mutated and stopped producing seeds, becoming the first naturally evolved hybrid.
Bananas are the world’s largest export fruit, accounting for $12 billion in annual sales for Chiquita and Dole. These bananas are imported into the United States from companies and plantations that grow banana trees in India, South America, and Africa. Many third world countries depend on banana production as a staple food, where bananas eat 3 meals a day. Bananas are rich in sugars such as sucrose, glucose and fructose, as well as fiber and special minerals that contain potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Bananas contain tryptophan, a body protein that converts into mood-boosting serotonin. They are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin C. Doctors claim that eating bananas can reduce the risk of sudden stroke by 40%, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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#History #Evolution #Banana #Hybrids