Banana (Musa) is an herbaceous plant that can be used as ornamental or can be eaten especially the fruits. Banana fruits are probably the most popular foods in the whole world. Not only it is good, but it is also good for you. It is well known to have more potassium than any other fruit, that it is actually radioactive.
Bananas come in different colors depending on the variety. We have yellow, green, red, purple and mostly elongated in shape. Most people know only the Cavendish type which is green when unripe and turns yellow when ripe. It is the most common variety we see in the supermarkets or farmers market today.
There is a variety called plantain which is a cooking variety because it has lot of starch content. We call our cooking bananas in the Philippines “saba”. It is usually made into “turon ” also called banana lumpia. We cook the “saba” banana as a dessert.
Banana plants starts from a corm. The trunk of a banana plant is made of sheaths that ends with petiole that makes the leaves. As it matures, the corms stops producing new leaves and begin to form a flower spike or inflorescence which we also call banana heart (puso ng saging in Tagalog). After fruiting, banana plant will die eventually but before it dies, it will produce baby banana plants which in time will become a tree and produce fruits and then the cycle starts again making it a perennial plant.
The inflorescence of the banana plant contains many bracts, with male and female flowers. The banana fruits develop into tiers called hands with up to 20 fruit to a tier. The hanging cluster is known as bunch which comprise of 3-20 tiers, and each fruit is called a finger.
The word banana is of West African origin “banaana”. It is native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia but is now cultivated in 107 countries like Papua New Guinea and also Philippines. The bananas are grown mostly for the fruits but some growers make fibers out of it and also wine or beer. The purple variety especially is grown as ornamental plants in most home gardens.
If you want to grow bananas, they are usually available in nurseries as “keiki”, Hawaiian term for baby plant. It needs full sun, lots of moisture and preferably dug into a site close to a compost pile. I was given a small plant by a friend gardener and he told me it is a dwarf variety but it grew so tall and gave me lots of fruit as you can see in the picture. It is an apple banana variety. I couldn’t be happier!