The banana is a widely consumed inexpensive fruit today, but before the 1870s it was not available in temperate climates and was generally consumed only in the regions where it was grown. The fruit of the seeded wild banana tree, which originated in Southeast Asia, was too small to be eaten. The seedless, edible species was most likely a natural hybrid and has long been known and loved in the Asian continent and its islands. The banana plant, which likes hot weather and plenty of water (it does not grow beyond 30 degrees north or south of the equator), likes well-wooded, rich soils. Its distinctive giant leaves emerge from a single stem. Male flowers are sterile, fruits female flowers (hermaphrodite) produces.
First commercial banana Cavendish
Since the fruit of this large herbaceous plant is seedless, the banana propagated from its side shoots has spread to Asia and the Malay Archipelago by this method. It may have been brought as far as Hawaii by Muslim traders to Africa, where it was consumed as a staple food source (though it may have come from Indonesia a long time ago). Although the method of propagation meant that new cultivars could not be obtained from the plant, there were many natural varieties. The most common commercial banana, Cavandish, was grown in England in the 19th century in the Victorian greenhouse of the Duke of Devonshire. The banana plant is susceptible to pests and diseases because it is clonal. This is one of the concerns of the modern world. The Gros Michel banana, once a common species, was nearly destroyed by a plant fungus in the 1930s.
Before the European age of discovery, the banana had spread to Asia, Oceania, and Africa. The Portuguese transported it to the Canary Islands, from where it was taken to the Caribbean to be used as a staple food source for African slaves. The value of the plant stems from the year-round fruiting. Carbohydrate-rich, high-potassium fruits are a good source of vitamin C.
Because it wasn’t durable enough to travel long distances, it required faster sea shipping and cooling to make it easily accessible around the world. American companies such as United Fruit and Del Monte rapidly expanded their plantations in the Caribbean islands, Central and South America with demand. British company Fyffes, a joint venture between a trading firm and a shipping giant, did the same in West African countries for the British market. Wanting his potential customers to get used to the sweet fruit, the shipper Sir Alfred Lewis Jones was delivering bananas to people in the Liverpool docks from his ships arriving in port. These entrepreneurs made the banana an always-available food at a time when Europeans had to eat seasonally.
The banana, which maintains its place among the important food sources in tropical countries, is eaten as a whole in India with different recipes. Although it is usually consumed raw in the West, it is cooked in many parts of the world. Edible banana plantains are heavily consumed in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The chromosome arrangement is slightly different, but it is a member of the same species as the yellow banana. Plantain bananas, which are usually eaten cooked, are equally nutritious.
The false stem of the banana, a large perennial herb, consists of leaf sheaths that are wrapped together. Some varieties of bananas, whose broad leaves have long been used as roofing material, packaging material or umbrellas, are used in southern India as a “biological plate”. For thousands of years it was propagated from the lateral shoots of the trunk near the ground, but today this has been changed by successful tissue culture techniques.