Bananas “trees” are actually the world’s tallest herbaceous plant. They can reach 20 feet in height. “Herbaceous” means there is no woody stem and all the plant matter above the ground dies at the end of a yearly cycle.
What keeps the Banana tree growing each year (making it a perennial plant) is its corm (yes c-o-r-m), which looks like a brown ball, 10 inches in diameter. New offshoots develop from the corm.
The fruits grow off the main stems in large clusters that can weigh over 100 pounds, with up to 400 individual bananas per cluster!
Bananas are a tropical plant and originated in the Indonesia region; today they are grown in over 100 countries.
Banana reached the new world with Portuguese settlers in the 16th century, with plantation being set up in south and central America. They were virtually unknown to Americans until after the civil war.
Although here in the states we are mostly acquainted with the yellow Cavendish variant, sweet bananas come in a variety of colors – green, yellow, red, purple, or brown.
Plantains are a type of banana that is firmer and not as sweet as the banana. They are very starchy and require some type of heat preparation to break down the starches into sugars and become edible.
Bananas are picked unripe green and exported this way. They are the ripened in special storage chambers using ethylene.
Despite their firm texture and rather dry mouth-feel, bananas are composed of 75% water.
Nutritionally, bananas are wonderful – a 4 oz. medium banana has just 100 calories, but 3 grams of fiber, 20% of your daily value of magnesium, and 10% of your daily potassium needs. It is a good source of vitamin C as well! A banana after a workout, along with plenty of water, can help replenish you more effectively and cheaply than any energy drink.