Today fruits we all know as bananas (though they are actually rather barriers that fruits) are the world’s most popular plant product, along with wheat, rice and corn.
Banana palm tree can be up to 10 meters high and is distantly related to orchids and lilies. There are more than 500 sorts of bananas that, thanks to our agricultural efforts, can be seen all around the world.
The word “banana” comes from Arabic language and means “finger”.
That’s exactly why the whole cluster of fruits is called a hand. At the same time, the plant’s Latin name is musa sapientum, which can be translated as “a wiseman’s fruit” or a “protector of mind”.
But do bananas really make you smarter and just how useful are they beyond the realm of gastronomy? Read on to find out.
Bananas come from South-East Asia. In India they have always been considered special and sacred fruits capable of restoring energy and mind power.
Later bananas appeared on the Eastern and Western shores of Africa. Ancient Egyptians believed in the healing power of bananas.
In XVI century bananas came to Canary Islands and Central and South America, and five centuries were enough for them to become more popular here than they are in their land of origin.
Along with India, Cuba, Ecuador, Columbia and Panama are among the top biggest banana exporters.
Hence the “banana republic” term meaning a small country with banana plantations as the largest sources of income.
Some phytology fun facts
The bananas we are used to today are artificially created hybrids not capable of reproducing themselves.
What’s more, huge commercial banana plantations are actually an army of clones of a single plant from South Asia (when you pick the bananas from the tree, it gets withered, but spawns lots of young sprouts).
Sadly enough, our happy banana future is in danger: due to global climate changes and plant fungus bananas can vanish form the face of the world… though there is still hope some sort will remain safe in greenhouses and botanical gardens.
Apart from the popular yellow bananas there are also red, green and black banana fruits.
The funny thing is the most of banana sorts are not that tasty, and sweet bananas are rather an exclusion form the general rule.
All bananas are radioactive: being rich in potassium, they also contain radioactive potassium isotope called potassium-40.
Before you get really worried about it, let me note that lots of everyday products are a source of natural radiation, but still they won’t make you shine at night or harm your health in any other way.
Because of this remarkable fact, they use bananas as a sort of a radioactive standard: to evaluate the objects radioactivity in nuclear energetics, scientists have introduced the informal term of Banana Equivalent Dose (BED).
Bananas & cooking
In African countries, they add bananas to nearly every meal. Scrambled eggs, rice cereal, tomato soup – you name it.
They fry bananas, they roast bananas, they use them as a sort of garnish for seafood meals. In Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and Congo they make banana beer.
We are more used to seeing bananas in all kinds of desserts, though: milkshakes, pies, ice-cream and dried banana chips.
How healthy are they?
Bananas contain everything human body needs, so in theory, you can live a lifetime on an all-bananas diet without experiencing lack of energy, microelements or vitamins.
It contains zinc which is good for your brain and iron that renews your blood.
Bananas are natural antidepressants and relaxants because they contain tryptophan amino acid and vitamin B6 that help your body produce serotonin hormone.
Potassium makes your heart stronger and helps decreasing blood pressure.
Besides all that, bananas are rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, K, PP, calcium, magnesium, fluorine, phosphorus, cupric, selenium and fiber.
Bananas reduce the chance of cancer and heart diseases, they boost your mood and decrease stress level, and supply you with a lot of energy. Besides, there are very few people allergic to bananas, so they are perfect for childhood nutrition.
Bananas are used to make cosmetic products. Banana peels can help you to reduce unpleasant sensations, swelling and itching caused by insect bites.
Indians use tons of crushed bananas to heave ships off to water and Brazilians use banana peels to produce eco-friendly biodegradable plastic.
So hail to bananas!