Banana Flower

Banana Flower

Amazing Facts About Bananas

The banana is believed by many horticulturists to have been the first fruit produced on earth.  Bananas have been cultivated by man since the dawn of history. There are now over 900 varieties that grow throughout the world in temperate regions in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.  Most people know that bananas are an excellent source of potassium but did you know these other amazing banana facts?

Banana trees do not exist

Bananas grow on plants, not trees.  They are the largest plants in the world that do not have woody stem. Bananas are actually perennial herbs related to ginger, turmeric and cardamom.  A banana plant does not grow from seeds, as the tiny dark seeds found in most banana varieties are incapable of germination, but from a rhizome or bulb. A single banana rhizome will have new shoots each year and a banana plant may live for over 100 years.  You can actually grow your own banana tree and banana plants are available online at Amazon.Banana Flower

Bananas are the #1 fruit sold in the United States and the world

Even though bananas are not commercially grown in the US, they are the best selling fruit.  Over 90% of Americans consume at least one banana each month and the average American eats more than 25 pounds of bananas during the course of a year – more than both apples and oranges together.

Think 25 pounds is a lot?  Try 500 pounds.

Ugandans hold the record for highest per capita banana consumption with an amazing 500 pounds of bananas or more consumed in Uganda, per person, per year.  American banana consumption has a way to go to meet those numbers.

100 Billion Served

Over 100 billion bananas are eaten each year throughout the world.  This makes bananas the fourth most important agricultural crop after wheat, rice and corn.  Quinoa has a way to go to make even the top 100.

5 Corporations Control the World Banana Market

Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa and Fyffes grow over 80% of bananas produced for export in the world on large corporate plantations.  The phrase ‘banana republic’ comes from the tremendous political control the western banana companies such as Chiquita exerted in some banana producing countries in the past.  Some of this power and influence of banana companies remains to this day. 

A banana cluster is called a hand and individual bananas are called fingers.

An entire banana stalk is known as a bunch, while the individual clusters on the stalk, which may have anywhere from 10 to 20 bananas, are called hands.  Single bananas are known as fingers.  Interestingly, the Arabic word ‘banan’ means finger.

The banana flower is edible .. and enormous

The huge purplish colored banana flower is edible and often sold in markets and eaten in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.  They are commonly seen in markets in Thailand.  Of course, if the banana flower is harvested, the plant cannot produce bananas that season.

Bananas should be picked before they are ripe

Bananas are one of a very few fruits which are best to harvest before they are ripe.  Even in banana producing areas, where time to market is not an issue; bananas are harvested and allowed to ripen off the plant.  The banana continues to convert its starch into sugar as it ripens.  The longer a banana is allowed to ripen, the sweeter it is.

Bananas are Radioactive

Yes, it’s true – bananas are radioactive due to their high potassium content.  They actually contain potassium-40, a radioactive isotope.  Low level radiation exposure is often informally calculated in terms of 'banana doses'.

The Banana is a Berry

That's right.  There is no banana tree, the banana plant is really an herb, it's radioactive and horticulturists classify the fruit as a berry.


Bananas And Banana Flower
Credit: Andrew Schmidt

Darjeeling Banana Seeds