Bananas not only taste good—they are nourishing too. This fruit has a very interesting history as well.
Photo by Max Ducourneau on Unsplash
Origin of Bananas
This fruit is considered one of the “original fruits.” It is believed to have existed about 10,000 years ago. And may even be the first fruit.
It was a native fruit tree on the Malay Peninsula and in Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea. The fruit was taken by early traders to India, Africa, and Polynesia.
This fruit was quite different from our modern banana. The original fruit had large seeds and very little pulp. It wasn’t until the cross-breeding of two wild varieties, the Musa Acuminata and the Musa Baalbisiana, in Africa in about 650 AD that it became seedless and more like the delicious sweet fruit, we enjoy today.
It is possible that the Arabian slave traders named the fruit. The original fruit was small, about the length of a long adult finger, hence the name “banan” meaning finger in Arabic. Other historians suggest that the name may have come from a local language in West Africa.
The name banana may have come from the Arabic word for finger!
The fruit is also known as plantains, as the Spaniards saw a similarity to their native plane tree, so named the fruit plantano. This led to the word plantain. Unripe plantain is commonly steamed or boiled and its taste is like a cooked potato. Ripe plantains are eaten raw like other bananas and have a sweet, starchy taste.
The fruit was first cultivated between the 5th and 15th centuries along coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, but not Australia. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, plantations were established in Latin America and the Carribean. The fruit arrived in Australia in the 1800s.
The main tropical growing regions in Australia today, are in Northern Queensland, Northern Western Australia, and the Northern territory. The Sub Tropical regions are Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
All fresh bananas that are available in Australia are grown here. There are no imports due to threats of pests and disease.
For more information about their production, visit Australian Bananas.
Some interesting facts about bananas
- Australians eat about 5,000,000 bananas a day!
- They have a bent shape as they grow towards the sun and defy gravity.
- They contain 75% water.
- Over 10,000 years old they are thought to be the world’s oldest fruit.
- They are rich in potassium and provide a good source of dietary fibre and protein.
Bananas and health
Like all fruits and vegetables, bananas, due to the range of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fibre contribute to good health. They are particularly important for reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.
Consuming adequate potassium, a mineral, from plant foods is linked to a decrease in heart disease, stroke and the formation of kidney stones. It also protects against muscle wasting and loss of minerals from bones.
For adults, eating one banana a day provides approximately 1/0th of daily requirements for potassium.
Tryptophan is an amino acid (a small unit of protein) found in bananas is associated with preserving memory and boosting mood.
Bananas are a great choice to sustain satiety too due to their fibre and water content. I also commonly hear from my clients that their taste and texture add to the feelings of being well-fed and well-nourished.
- People taking Beta-blocker medication, most commonly prescribed for heart disease, should only consumer high potassium foods such as bananas in moderation.
- Consuming too much potassium when you have kidney disease could be fatal, as your kidneys may not be able to clear excess potassium from your blood.
- Some people have an allergy to bananas. After eating a banana, anyone with an allergy may experience mouth and throat itching, hives, swelling, and wheezing.
- Bananas can trigger migraines in some people.
- Eastern medicine describes the banana as heavy and difficult to digest, so some people may experience indigestion or bloating after eating them.
If any of these above conditions, apply to you, please discuss your personal nutrition and health requirements with your healthcare practitioner.
- Whole as a snack.
- In a smoothie with yoghurt and nuts.
- In a fruit salad.
- Sliced on your porridge or muesli.
- In banana bread.
- Baked in muffins.
It is exciting to know that possibly the oldest fruit known to us remains one of the most popular fruits today. Enjoy a medium-sized banana as one serve of fruit.