Bananas may have been the world’s first cultivated fruit. Archaeologists have found evidence of banana cultivation in New Guinea as far back as 8000 B.C.
Bananas are produced mainly in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as the Canary Islands and Australia.
Bananas do not grow on trees. The banana plant is classified as an arborescent (tree-like) perennial herb, and the banana itself is considered a berry.
The correct name for a bunch of bananas is a hand; a single banana is a finger.
Nearly all the bananas sold in stores are cloned from just one variety, the Cavendish banana plant, originally native to Southeast Asia.
The Cavendish replaced the Gros Michel after that variety was wiped out by fungus. The Gros Michel reportedly was bigger, had a longer shelf life and tasted better.
The Cavendish may face the same fate as the Gros Michel within the next 20 years, botanists say.
Bananas are also called plantains. But in general use, “banana” refers to the sweeter form of the fruit, which is often eaten uncooked, while “plantain” refers to a starchier fruit that is often cooked before eating.
There are 50 recognized species of banana.
Wild bananas grow throughout Southeast Asia, but most are inedible for humans, as they are studded with hard seeds.
The vast majority of bananas grown today are for consumption by the farmers or the local community. Only 15 percent of the global production of the fruit is grown for export.
India is the leading producer of bananas worldwide, accounting for 23 percent of the total banana production, though most of the Indian plantains are for domestic use.
In 1923, sheet music for a popular song titled “Yes, We Have No Bananas!” sold upward of a thousand copies a day.
Harry Belafonte’s version of the “Banana Boat Song” was released on the first album to sell over a million copies, Belafonte’s “Calypso.”