The ‘tree’ is actually a giant herb and each stem flowers and bears fruit only once. New suckers perpetuate the life of the root knoll (corm). A sucker unfolds a fixed number of leaves before fruiting occurs. The flower stem is pushed from the corm, through the stem and emerges at amazing speed. Under each flower leaf, one hand of bananas emerges.
The male part of the banana (the bell) that hangs below the bunch marginally assists in the development of the bunch. In commercial varieties the male flower is sterile. An average bunch will have 8 hands of 15 bananas.
Nearly all bananas are commercially ripened and people buying the fruit can often get them in a semi-colored state that will ripen within a matter of days. For ripe bananas, look for bright yellow skin with green tips at each end and free from bruising.
Bananas can be termed the perfect snack food or the basis for a complete meal. They are extremely versatile. Try them in a range of dishes from simple salads to tantalizing desserts. Bananas complement chicken, pork and veal and are delicious barbecued.
For a quick snack, serve banana and ham jaffles or for a sweeter version, banana, coconut and sultana jaffles. Bananas can be frozen on a stick, wrapped in foil and stored in the freezer for a quick delicious snack on a hot day. Use ripe bananas mashed for use in cakes, scones, hotcakes, pies and milkshakes. Discover just how quick and easy food preparation can be with versatile bananas.
In southern areas, banana plantations are usually situated on fairly steep hillsides to get above frost level and away from severe cold. Generally these slopes face north or northeast so as to maximize to exposure to the winter sun. In northern parts of Australia growing on hillsides are not required because of the warm humid conditions are ideal for bananas. Bananas grow best in deep alluvial soil and good soil drainage and aeration is essential. Bananas have a considerable requirement for water so that when rainfall is insufficient, irrigation is practiced.
Evidence indicates that bananas are one of the oldest fruits known to mankind and also probably one of the first fruits to be cultivated. Their original place of origin is believed to have been the moist tropical region of southern Asia. From here, bananas spread into southern China and the Indian subcontinent. As long ago as 327 B.C., Alexander the Great is credited with discovering them flourishing in India.
Despite the banana’s long history, only a century ago they were still considered a rare, exotic and wonderful delicacy. The first shipments arriving in the United States from Central America attracted hundreds of curious onlookers. Today the banana is perhaps one of the most popular fruits, establishing itself in the eating habits of many countries with ease and rapidity.
Bananas are a good source of vitamins C and B6. A good source of cholesterol-lowering dietary fibre and a useful source of potassium. Bananas also provide complex carbohydrates and energy, with a medium banana (1509) providing 370kJ.
The Cavendish is the most common banana in Australia. It is ideal for eating when ripe and lends itself well to cooking or drying. Select fruit that is bright yellow. Store at room temperature. Do not refrigerate Cavendish bananas, as the skin will blacken.
Mature Green 13.5°C at 95% relative humidity. Ripe 13.5°C at 85% relative humidity.
Bananas are harvested mature green. Fullness of the fruit is the main criterion for assessing maturity for harvest. Ripening of bananas can be controlled with the use of ethylene over a specific temperature and humidity range in order to achieve uniformity in the ripeness of fruit and reduce variability in supply. Without controlled ripening, wide variation in ripeness can occur between hands on the one bunch and perhaps more importantly even within the one hand.
Boiling is a serious disorder occurring with bananas at temperatures above 32°C, therefore exposure to temperatures at this extreme should be avoided at all costs.
On the other end of the scale, chilling injury can occur when fruit is held at temperatures below 13°C. Green fruit is slightly more susceptible to this than is ripe fruit.
Ripen at room temperature. Can be stored in the refrigerator, the skin will darken; however fruit will still be edible. Fruit should be kept from 13°-18°C, no more. No less.