The banana is an edible fruit which grows in large numbers by several varieties of extremely large herbaceous flowering plants of the genus Musa. This plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant on earth.
So why do we write about banana when we normally only cover lesser-known species and places? Because banana is the favorite fruit of each and every of our team members!
The fruit is variable in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved. The soft flesh rich in starch and covered with a rind which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe.
The fruits grow in clusters hanging from the top of the plant. The banana plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy but are not trees. But what appears to be a trunk is actually a “false stem” or pseudostem.
The banana plant grows well in a wide variety of soils, as long as the soil is at least 24 in (60 cm) in depth, has good drainage and is not too dense. The leaves of banana plants consist of a “stalk” (petiole) and a blade (lamina).
The base of the petiole widens to form a sheath, the tightly packed sheaths make up the pseudostem, which is all that supports the plant. The edges of the sheath meet when it first comes out, making it tubular. As new growth occurs in the center of the pseudostem the edges are forced apart.
Cultivated fruit plants vary in height depending on the variety and growing conditions. Most banana plants are approximately 16 ft (5 m) tall, but various varieties range from 10-23 ft (3-9 m) in height.
Leaves sit spirally and may grow to a length of as much as 9 ft (2.7 m). They are easily torn by the wind, resulting in the familiar frond look. When a banana plant is mature, the corm stops producing new leaves and begins to form a flower spike or inflorescence.
A stem develops which grows up inside the pseudostem, carrying the immature inflorescence until eventually, it emerges at the top. Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the “banana heart,” though multiples are not unknown.
After fruiting, the pseudostem dies, but offshoots will normally have developed from the base so that the plant as a whole is perennial. The female flowers (which can develop into fruit) appear in rows further up the stem (closer to the leaves) from the rows of male flowers.
The ovary is inferior, meaning that the tiny petals and other flower parts appear at the tip of the ovary. The banana fruits develop from the banana heart, in a large hanging cluster. That consists of tiers (hands), with up to 20 fruit to a tier.
The hanging cluster is a bunch, comprising 3–20 tiers, or commercially – a “banana stem” – which can weigh as much as 110 lbs (50 kg)! Individual banana fruits average 0.27 lbs (125 grams).
Banana and Natural Potassium
Some have described the fruit as a “leathery berry”. There is a protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with long, thin strings running lengthwise between the skin and the edible inner portion.
The inner part of the common yellow dessert variety splits easily lengthwise into three sections that correspond to the inner portions of the three carpels. In cultivated varieties, the seeds are almost non-existent; their remnants are tiny black specks in the interior of the fruit.
Bananas are actually naturally slightly radioactive.
This is because of their high potassium content and the small amounts of the isotope potassium-40 found in naturally occurring potassium. This plant’s equivalent dose of radiation is sometimes used in nuclear communication to compare radiation levels and exposures.