The banana is one of the most important fruit crops and grown in the tropics. Although it is most widely consumed in those regions, it is valued worldwide for its flavor, nutritional value, and availability throughout the year. Cavendish, or dessert bananas, are most commonly eaten fresh. Cooking varieties, or plantains, are starchy rather than sweet and are grown extensively as a staple food source in tropical regions; they are cooked when ripe or immature. A ripe fruit contains as much as 22% of carbohydrates and is high in dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C.
The scientific names of most cultivated bananas are Musa acuminata Colla, Musa balbisiana Colla, and Musa x paradisiaca L. Musa species are thought to have been first domesticated in Southeast Asia. Shortly after the discovery of America, bananas were taken from the Canary Islands to the New World. Cultivation increased until bananas became a staple food in many regions, and in the 19th century they began to appear in the markets of the United States.
The banana is a tree-like perennial herb. It is an herb because it does not have woody tissues and the fruit-bearing stem dies down after the growing season. It is a perennial because suckers, shoots arising from lateral buds on the rhizome, take over and develop into fruit-bearing stems. A banana is an edible fruit – botanically a berry – variable in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe. The fruits grow in clusters hanging from the top of the plant.
It is estimated that the world production of bananas and plantains combined is around 155 million tons/year – 75% bananas crop and 25% plantains crop. Largest producing countries are India and China with a combined total of 38% of global production, followed by the Philippines, Colombia, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Brazil. The largest exporting countries are Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the Philippines.
Bananas and plantains constitute a major staple food crop for millions of people in developing countries, providing livelihoods to millions of smallholder farmers and plantation workers around the world. Bananas and plantains are important for global food security.
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