Bananas belong to the most popular and most eaten fruits in the world. They were first grown in tropical India and Southeast Asia over 4000 years ago. Arab merchants brought them to northern Africa and the Middle East.
Physical Features of a Banana Plant
Although bananas grow like trees they are actually plants. They are made up of stalks that are covered with overlapping leaves. A stalk or stem can be about 30 cm thick. A banana plant can grow up to 6 meters in height. It has up to 20 long and wide leaves.
Bananas hang in clusters, also called hands, from the plant. Each cluster can carry about 10 to 20 bananas.
Bananas need good, well-drained soils, as well as a warm tropical climate with enough rainfall to grow. They are often cultivated on plantations, often with hundreds of workers who cultivate and harvest bananas for the world market. These large farms sell their products to large companies like, Chiquita and Dole.
The first banana fruits can grow about a year after planting. Bananas are endangered by temperatures below zero and strong winds. Diseases, like the Panama disease, an infection of the soil, can completely destroy banana crops.
Bananas are harvested while they are still green. In this state the banana's flesh is white and cannot be eaten. The green fruits are taken to the nearest port, where they are put on container ships with cooling containers on board.
When the bananas arrive at their destination they are loaded onto trucks or railway cars and brought to sellers who store them in special ripening rooms. From this time on it takes bananas about five days to ripen and get the yellow colour and taste we all know. As the fruit ripens the flesh also becomes sweet.
Banana as a staple diet
In many tropical regions of Africa, South America and Asia, bananas are a main food for the population. They have many nutrients that people need. In addition to 75 % water, a banana contains sugar, proteins and vitamins. It gives you quick energy and can be digested fairly easily.
Bananas belong to the healthiest foods in the world. They contain potassium, which can lower your blood pressure, prevent heart diseases and reduce the risk of a stroke.
In the western world bananas are eaten as snacks in-between meals or together with cereals. In other countries they are used to make wine or beer.
Types of bananas
There are up to a thousand different kinds of bananas. The Cavendish banana is the most widely produced and eaten fruit in the world. Bananas that are used for cooking are called plantains.
A banana plant
Bananas are the fourth most valuable food crop in the world, after wheat, rice and corn.
They are important for the economy of tropical countries. About 140 million tons are harvested annually, however only a small percentage of the actual production is exported. The biggest banana-producing countries in the world actually need most of the fruit themselves.
India is the world’s largest banana producer, followed by Uganda, China, the Philippines, Ecuador and Brazil.
Today the banana trade is a 5 billion dollar industry. Large companies like Chiquita and Dole control most of the banana exporting industry. Especially in Central America and the Caribbean workers suffer from poor working conditions and get low wages.
For decades EU countries preferred bananas from their former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean and placed taxes on imported South American bananas. In 2009 this long trade war came to an end.
Banana Ripening Room
- actually = really
- although = while
- annually = every year
- billion = a thousand million
- blood pressure = the power with which blood flows through your body
- Caribbean = area between the Gulf Coast of North America and South America
- cereal = breakfast food made from grain and usually eaten with milk
- cluster = here: group of fruits
- cool = to make colder
- crop = here: the plants on a field
- cultivate = grow
- decade = a period of ten years
- destination = end of a journey or trip
- digest = change food that you have eaten into substances that your body can use
- discover = find something for the first time
- disease = illness
- economy = the system by which the money and goods of a country are produced
- especially = above all
- flesh = soft part of a fruit and vegetable that can be eaten
- former = earlier
- harvest = gather ripe crops from the field
- height = how high something is
- in addition = also
- in-between = here: between two meals
- infection = bacteria or virus that gets into a plant
- load = put onto
- merchant = a person in the Middle Ages , who bought and sold things
- navigator = explorer; person on a ship who plans which way it should go
- nutrient = chemical or food that gives us what we need to grow and survive
- overlapping = when one thing lies on top of the other
- plantation = large area of land in a hot country , where crops, like tea, cotton sugar etc.. are grown
- popular=widespread, liked by many people
- potassium = silver- white metal that is used in farming
- prevent = stop
- protein = a natural substance that exists in food , like eggs, meat and beans; our body needs it to grow and say strong and healthy
- reduce = lower
- ripe = ready to be eaten
- soil= top layer of the earth on which plants grow
- Spaniard = person from Spain
- stalk = thick stem of a plant
- staple diet = main food of a country
- state = condition
- stem = thick part of a plant that grows out of the ground
- store = keep in a place for some time, until it is needed
- stroke = when a blood vessel is blocked and blood cannot flow through
- tax = money that you must pay to the government , depending on how high your income is or how much money you have
- trade = buying and selling products
- valuable = expensive, worth a lot
- wages = money you get for the work you do
- well-drained = here: when water can flow away and does not stay on the surface of the earth
- wheat = grain that white bread is made out of