Available all year round, bananas should be plump. The skin of the banana should be free of bruises as well as black and brown spots. Bananas should be purchased green and allowed to ripen at home.
The scientific name for banana is musa sapientum, which means "Fruit of the Wise Men". The word banana comes from an Arab word "banan" meaning finger.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans knew the banana as the "Indian Fig".
The very popular yellow banana of Cavendish is the banana we see in grocery stores. However, Plantains, Finger Bananas and Red Bananas are also popular varieties. Most have a soft texture when ripe.
Bananas may be ripened at room temperature until they reach the desired stage, then refrigerated and used in a short period of time. Refrigeration may darken the outside of the bananas, but this will not affect the fruit on the inside. In fact, refrigeration allows for longer storage of bananas.
Quick Banana Facts
- The banana peel contains the finest natural lubricant known to man. You can use the inside of a banana peel to polish patent leather shoes.
- Bananas are the world's best-selling fruit, outranking the apple and orange.
- A peanut butter and banana sandwich drizzled with honey is an all-time favorite comfort food.
- Bananas are harvested green because they keep ripening even after they are picked.
- Add chopped bananas, walnuts and maple syrup to oatmeal.
- If you want to ripen bananas even more quickly, wrap them in a wet paper towel and place them into a brown paper sack.
- Bananas were often given to immigrants at Ellis Island who had never seen the tropical fruit before and ate it peel and all.
- The new size of miniature bananas now appearing in supermarkets has more taste than many of the larger ones.
- Bananas are one of the few foods to contain the 6 major vitamin groups.
- If you peel a banana from the bottom up you won't get the string things. Those stringy things are called phloem (pronounced FLOM).
- An individual banana is called a finger. A bunch of bananas is called a hand.
- Americans consume 25 pounds of bananas per person annually.
- In Eastern Africa you can buy banana beer. This beer is brewed from bananas.
- Bananas contain less water than most other fruits.
- Bananas are a type of berry from a tree classified as an herb tree which can grow up to 30 feet high.
- Bananas are the largest plant in the world without a woody stem.
- In South East Asia, the banana leaf is used to wrap food (in the place of plastic bags and cling wraps), providing a unique flavor and aroma to nasi lemak and the Indian banana leaf rice.
- In the former Belgian Congo European soldiers during colonial times used the sap from the banana plant to heal wounds made by arrows of the natives.
- The sap of the fe'i banana is reddish in color and was once used by missionaries to make copies of the Bible by dipping bamboo pens in the red sap.
- Banana Chips are usually fried in coconut oil and is not a good nutritious snack like a banana or air dried banana chips. One ounce of fried chips can have as much as 150 calories and up to 10 grams of fat, much of which is saturated. You can purchase healthier versions now. Check food labels.
Fun Banana Facts
- In 1986, a discount electronics store called Silo ran a television ad in Seattle, Washington and El Paso, Texas. The add offered a stereo system for "200 bananas". Dozens of consumers lined up outside the stores with bags of bananas! This compelled Silo to honor the offer, losing 10,465 dollars.
- The phrase going bananas was first recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary because of the banana's connection with monkeys.
- A man in India once ate 81 bananas in a half an hour.
- Brisbane holds the world record for the longest banana split ever made - a giant 7.3 km long!
- Reindeers like eating bananas.
- The white tube at the very heart of the trunk of a banana "tree" can be cooked into a treat similar to bamboo shoots.
- In 2001, there were more than 300 banana-related accidents in Britain, most involving people slipping on skins.
- The banana fits the botanical definition of a berry.
Did You Know?
There are in excess of 500 banana varieties in the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small finger fruits to purple plantains. The most common are listed below:
- Cavandish: This is the standard banana that is most purchased and for the most part is grown in South America.
- Manzano: Called finger bananas and turn black when they are ripe.
- Plantains: Very large green bananas and turn black when they are ripe.
- Red Bananas: Not usually as curved, they turn a purplish color when ripe. Sweet tasting.
Chef's Secrets for Bananas
- To reduce the amount of food discolorization, slice bananas, apples, pears, plums and peaches with a stainless steel knife, then either combine them with any citrus fruit or sprinkle them with lemon or pineapple juice. Refrigerate as soon as possible.
- If a green banana is placed next to a ripe banana, it will ripen more quickly.
- Unpeeled bananas will last longer if stored in the refrigerator in a sealed jar.
- If you slice bananas with a sterling silver knife they will not darken as fast. Old wives tale?
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