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Banana A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Banana A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Full of vitamins and history, the banana is an exotic fruit loved by all, discover its many sides from A to Z

By FDL on

Andy Warhol
An Andy Warhol's print of a banana became the cover artwork for the debut album of The Velvet Underground, one of the most important bands in the history of pop music. On the original vinyl LP version, the design allowed the listener to 'peel' this banana to find a pink, peeled phallic banana on the inside.

The poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is named after the Japanese word for a banana plant. The "bashō" planted in his garden by a grateful student became a source of inspiration to his poetry, as well as a symbol of his life and home.

In global commerce the most important cultivars of banana belong to the group of Musa acuminata, commonly referred to as Cavendish. They account for the majority of banana exports, despite only coming into existence in 1836.

Not only eaten: bananas, thanks to their smoothy taste, are also an excellent ingredient for different kind of drinks. From healthy milk shakes to alcoholic cocktails and long drinks (the sweetness of the fruit balances the dryness of most liquors).

The favorite sandwich of 'The King' is the Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, a very fattening dish made of bread, peanut butter and banana, all deep fried in butter. Elvis asked for the sandwich at every hour of the day. The sandwich, depending on the quantity of ingredients, accounts for (at minimum) 2000 Kcal.

The first notable disease to strike bananas was a mold called Fusarium, it struck the roots of the Gros Michel variety. Fusarium was also known as Panama Disease and it was carried in the soil. The strategy to control Fusarium was to move banana plantations every ten years or so. Then in the 1950’s researchers developed a banana that was immune to Fusarium, the Giant Cavendish, which is the variety that has come to dominate modern consumption worldwide.

Gros Michel
Gros Michel, often known as Big Mike, is an export cultivar of bananas, and was until the 1950s the main variety exported to the United States. It was fatter and shorter than the Cavendish that took its place, and even more tasty but it was afflicted by the Panama Disease. The Gros Michel cultivar is still present in Honduras.

In Hawaii Banana is a person who does something dumb or stupid. They use this word frequently in sentences like “Look at that guy he is such a banana” or “I feel like a banana for doing that”.

Indian subcontinent is the biggest grower of bananas in the world, with 30 mln tons per year. One banana out of four grows in India. Uganda and China follow at great distance. Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia are the biggest exporters even if they're not the biggest growers. 

Nowadays, Japan is the place where bananas are most wanted. The growth in popularity is due to a local diet prescribed by a pharmacist. It's called The Morning Banana Diet and imposes a simple regime: at breakfast, bananas (as many as you want) and natural water; no limits for the other meals (except no dessert) and go to sleep before midnight.

Kuk Swamp
Evidence found in Kuk Swamp, the archaeological site in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, suggests that banana cultivations go back to at least 5000 BC and maybe to 8000 BC. Possibly from there the fruit spread around the world.

Strong, flexible and waterproof. They are often used as ecologically friendly disposable food containers or as "plates" in South Asia. Especially in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, in every occasion the food must be served in a banana leaf and as a part of the food a banana is served. In Tamil Nadu (India) leaves are fully dried and used as packing material for food stuffs and also as cups to hold liquid foods.

The currently scientific names for bananas are Musa acuminata Colla and Musa balbisiana Collafor regarding the ancestral species, while Musa paradisiaca is the hybrid of Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The name Musa may descend either from the ancient Roman botanist Antonius Musa, or from the latinization of the Arabic word mauz that indicates the fruit of banana.

Nang Tani
In Thailand it is believed that some banana trees may be inhabited by a spirit, Nang Tani, a type of ghost related to trees that manifests itself as a young woman. Often people tie a length of colored satin cloth around the trunk of the banana tree. In Malaysia the ghost called Pontianak is associated with banana trees, and its spirit is said to reside in them during the day.

The great Roman emperor Octavianus Augustus was a factor in the history of bananas. His personal physician Antonius Musa was credited for promoting cultivation of the exotic African fruit from 63 to 14 B.C.

Cultivated bananas are parthenocarpic: they are sterile and unable to produce viable seeds. Lacking seeds, propagation typically involves farmers removing and transplanting part of the underground stem (called a corm).

In Queensland there is The Shire of Banana, a local government area named after the burial site of a huge dun colored bullock named 'Banana'. In this area there's a little town called Banana.

Banana republic is a term for a politically unstable country whose economy is largely dependent on the export of a single limited-resource product, such as fruits or minerals. The term banana republic was coined by the American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter 1862–1910 ) to describe the fictional "Republic of Anchuria" in the book Cabbages and Kings (1904), a collection of thematically related short stories inspired by his experiences in Honduras during the 1896–97 period.

David Evans Strickler
, a 23-year-old apprentice at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, who enjoyed inventing sundaes at the store's soda fountain, invented the banana-based triple ice cream sundae in 1904.

The banana plant has long been a source of fiber for high quality textiles. In Japan banana cultivation for clothing and household use dates back to at least the 13th century.

Uncle Josh
A person slipping on a banana peel has been a staple of comedy for generations. A 1910 comedy recording features a popular character of the time, "Uncle Josh", claiming to describe his own such incident: “My foot hit the bananer peelin' and I went up in the air, and I come down ker-plunk, jist as I was pickin' myself up a little boy come runnin' across the street ... he says, 'Oh mister, won't you please do that agin? My little brother didn't see you do it'".

Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, soluble fiber, and contain moderate amounts of vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.

The Banana Wars were a series of occupations and police actions involving the United States in Central America and the Caribbean. This period started with the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the subsequent Treaty of Paris which gave the United States control of Cuba and Puerto Rico. But there's a more recent banana wars, the one in which Latin American banana exporters had long protested against EU tariffs designed to protect small growers in former European colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Now even the second one is over.

Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive, more so than most other fruits, because of their potassium content and the small amounts of the isotope (potassium-40) found in naturally occurring potassium. Sustainers of nuclear power sometimes refer to the banana equivalent dose of radiation to support their arguments.

"Yes! We Have No Bananas" was written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn and released in 1923; for many decades, it was the best-selling sheet music in history. Since then the song has been rerecorded several times and has been particularly popular during banana shortages.

The Musar cultivar belong to the Zingiberales order. This order includes many familiar plants like ginger, cardamom, turmeric, galangal and myoga.



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