From left to right: plantain, red banana, apple banana, and Cavendish banana.

Courtesy of Wikipedia (“banana”), here are some banana fun facts:

  1. The banana plant is the world’s largest flowering herb; the banana itself is a “leathery berry.”  The bananas eaten in the U.S. are the Cavendish variety.
  2. 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.  The banana equivalent dose of radiation is sometimes used in nuclear communication to compare radiation levels and exposures.
  3. Ripening bananas fluoresce a bright blue color when exposed to ultraviolet light. Green bananas do not fluoresce.  The fluorescence allows animals that can see light in the ultraviolet spectrum to more easily detect ripened bananas or may add protection against ultraviolet exposure, like a sunscreen, allowing the fruit to remain fresh longer.
  4. Because they reproduce asexually, bananas are vulnerable to being wiped out by disease.  While in no danger of outright extinction, the most common edible banana cultivar Cavendish (extremely popular in Europe and the Americas) could become unviable for large-scale cultivation in the next 10–20 years.
  5. Bananas can be cooked in ways that are similar to potatoes. Both can be fried, boiled, baked, or chipped and have similar taste and texture when served.  Both the skin and inner part can be eaten raw or cooked.  Banana flowers can be eaten, too.
  6. If bananas are too green, they can be put in a brown paper bag with an apple or tomato overnight to speed up the ripening process.
  7. Bananas and plantains are critical to global food security.  Because bananas and plantains produce fruit year-round, they provide an extremely valuable food source during the hunger season (when the food from one annual/semi-annual harvest has been consumed, and the next is still to come).
  8. North Americans began consuming bananas on a small scale at very high prices shortly after the Civil War, though it was only in the 1880s that it became more widespread.  As late as the Victorian Era, bananas were not widely known in Europe, although they were available.  Jules Verne introduces bananas to his readers with detailed descriptions in Around the World in Eighty Days (1872).
  9. The United States produces few bananas. A few tons were grown in Hawaii in 2001.  Bananas were once grown in Florida and southern California.
  10. Bananas are used to create thread for kimonos.
  11.  Two different parts of the banana plant can be used to make paper.
  12.  Banana peels may have capability to extract heavy metal contamination from river water.
  13. The first joke about slipping on a banana peel was recorded in 1910.
  14. In all the important festivals and occasions of Hindus, the serving of bananas plays a prominent part.
  15. The term “banana republic” has been applied to most countries in Central America, but from a strict economic perspective only Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama had economies dominated by the banana trade.  The phrase comes from the political maneuvers of banana companies, which included working with local elites and their rivalries to influence politics or playing the international interests of the United States, especially during the Cold War, to keep the political climate favorable to their interests.
  16. Plantains have more starch and less sugar than bananas and are cooked.  They can be used at any stage of ripeness.

Photo credit:

See also an article about the banana from 1550 found in England:

Ancient London banana unpeeled


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