Bananas are readily available, tasty, and highly nutritious as a snack.
Although people harvest bananas to eat as fruit, most of us wonder what exactly bananas are. Is a banana a herb or a fruit?
If you ever wondered, let’s have this discussion right here. A banana is a fruit that is a herb. Does that make sense? Let’s delve deeper.
Now, the origin of bananas dates back to the forests in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago. There is no definite date, but bananas now grow in almost all tropical parts of the world.
What to Expect? To properly define a banana, one must look at the components. We will start with the plant or tree to the final product that is the most eaten worldwide.
Classification of Bananas
Scientifically known as Musa Musaceae, bananas are available in different varieties.
The skin on the soft edible product ranges in color from green and yellow to a reddish hue.
The color changes depend on the plant’s maturity, although some varieties remain green even when ripe.
Bananas can be eaten raw, as dehydrated fruit, or as a meal when cooked.
Though most people grow banana for consumption, the banana plant makes good animal food and increases tree coverage.
Besides human beings, rabbits, pigs, horses, goats, birds, and squirrels enjoy eating banana stalks. Some insects also love feeding on banana stalks.
Why is a banana plant a herb?
Botanists refer to bananas as herbs because the banana tree has a soft trunk.
The fleshy tree stem, known as a pseudostem, grows from an underground rhizome.
The rhizome, referred to as a corm, is what grows up from the ground, covered by large leaves. The large leaves wrap around the stalk and extend out to form banana tree leaves.
After a year from when the rhizomes shoot to form the banana tree, a stalk grows outwards. It then creates a large flowering bud that bears bananas.
Once the plant bears fruit, the pseudostem dies, and the corm produces new growth.
Over Time – The corm produces many shoots, which, if not cut off, give an old banana tree a clustered appearance.
Is a banana tree the largest herb?
Yes. Banana trees are the largest herb in the world.
These perennial plants have a lifespan of over 20 years and grow to over 15 meters tall.
The trees are not actual trees due to the fleshy center as the word tree defines a wood middle or stalk.
Fun facts about banana plants
Besides what we know about bananas, some fun facts about them will surprise you.
- There are thousands of banana types worldwide.
- Bananas contain seeds, and the naked eye easily misses them because they are so tiny. However, the standard type sold in stores is a sterile variety, which is seedless.
- Horticulturists classify bananas as berries, similar to tomatoes, despite being from different plant families. The sizeable purple bud or flower where bananas emerge are known as banana hearts.
- The purple flowering bud of a banana tree, called banana hearts, are edible and especially popular in Vietnamese and Chinese cooking.
- Banana plants grow from an underground root, similar to turmeric and ginger.
- Besides warm or equatorial areas, bananas grow in cooler temperatures and can be indoor plants.
- In some areas of the world, especially in East Africa, bananas are produced as the staple food crop.
Types of Bananas
Various types of bananas grow all over the world today.
However, the most popular edible raw variety is the Cavendish banana.
Yellow in color, they are somewhat sweet. When unripe, the skin is green in color and changes to soft or brown spots yellow when ripe.
Apple bananas are the second most common type found in the pacific tropical forests.
Extremely Sweet – Apple bananas are short in size and do not brown quickly. They are perfect for desserts and fruit salads.
Ladyfingers are the shortest and sweetest bananas. Due to the high sugar content, they are ideal snacks for kids and adults.
Plantains are ideal for cooking. These bananas are harvested and sold while still green.
Plantains contain a higher starch content than other banana types. You can steam them before mashing, roast them, or deep fry them.
Uses of bananas
Beyond eating as a meal, dessert, or fruit, bananas have several other uses.
The banana stalks make good indoor plants or decorative outdoor plants.
Additionally, bananas make excellent natural cosmetics. Lastly, they contain traditional medicinal properties that treat various illnesses.
Below is detailed information on the various benefits bananas offer.
Health benefits of a banana
Bananas are packed with loads of essential nutrients that benefit the human body.
A single banana contains above 8% potassium, the recommended level per day.
Potassium in bananas helps your body function properly by maintaining your blood pressure.
Bananas contain fiber, vitamin c, and folate, which lower cholesterol and are suitable for a healthy heart.
The antioxidants in bananas are said to help reduce the effects of asthma in young children.
Lectin, an antioxidant in bananas, reduces free radicals that can damage cells, possibly causing cancer. Their protein content also promotes the growth of healthy body cells.
The fiber content in bananas encourages a healthy digestive system.
When people eat bananas while ill, they replenish electrolytes and prevent water loss in case of diarrhea.
Additionally – People who suffer from bloating and stomach inflammation will get relief from consuming bananas regularly.
The sugar content in bananas is natural. This means that people with diabetes can consume them in moderation.
An abundance of amino acids also boosts memory and controls mood swings.
Vitamin A in bananas helps maintain proper eyesight. Finally, eating bananas strengthens bones, especially in young children.
Medicinal properties in bananas
Besides the healthy nutrients in the ingested banana fruit, traditional medicine uses are applicable.
Bananas neutralize the acid that causes stomach ulcers.
If you suffer from heartburn, consuming bananas can encourage relief. The properties of bananas cause them to act as a natural antacid.
Most pregnant women experience fewer bouts of nausea when they eat bananas.
Additionally, alternate medicine practitioners use banana stems to help patients reduce kidney stones.
The stems soak in water for hours, and one then drinks the water for easy passing of the stones.
The purple banana flower in traditional medicine cures lung diseases and eases menstrual cramps in women.
People also use the inside of a banana peel to tie and cut off the blood supply to warts.
As a Result – They will fall off easily. Applying it to insect bites also lessens the sting and swelling.
Cosmetic uses of a banana
Bananas also make unique natural cosmetics for everyday use.
A fresh banana paste is a beautiful skin moisturizer, especially on the face.
Mix a ripe banana with honey and yogurt. Generously apply it on the face, leave to soak for a few minutes, and then wash off.
Banana peels can improve the white of your teeth.
To do this:
- Slowly rub the inside of a banana peel on your teeth after brushing.
- Let it dry, then gently brush off the excess banana.
A banana puree is a good hair and scalp treatment. The natural oils from bananas mixed with avocado and yogurt moisturize the scalp and hair.
Gently apply the mixture to the hair and massage it onto the scalp. Leave for half an hour and rinse off with warm water.
Combine bananas with sugar to create a soft body sugar scrub. A mix of sugar, banana mash, and cream makes a homemade scrub excellent for your skin.
Suppose your indoor plants have dull leaves, mash bananas and apply the paste to brighten the leaves. Rub off any excess banana extract.
Finally – Banana peels can be used to shine silverware and leather items in your home. Remove leftover banana residue with a dry cloth.
What are the side effects of eating too many bananas?
When consumed in excess, bananas may be harmful to some individuals.
- People who are taking medication high in potassium. One should avoid bananas in this case, as excess potassium can hinder the proper functioning of kidneys. Your kidneys cannot filter the extra potassium in the blood.
- People with allergic reactions to bananas. If you develop any itch, swelling, or breathing difficulties when you eat bananas, avoid them.
- Some people who have migraines have reported episodes after consuming bananas.
Storage and transport of bananas
Farmers should harvest banana bunches before they reach full maturity.
Doing so prevents them from over-ripening while being transported to stores. Avoid storing unripe bananas in refrigerators as the cold prevents ripening.
The best place to store bananas is in a cool, dry place, and wrap them in a plastic bag for quick ripening.
Once Ripe – Put them in the refrigerator to last a few more days. Alternatively, leaving them out in the open is the best way to keep them fresh.
Now that you know a banana is a herb and a fruit, the nutritional value remains.
Every time you eat or buy a banana, remember the many benefits the small herb possesses.
They are easy to come by, so include them in your everyday diet. Besides humans, bananas make tasty treats for household pets, especially dogs.
Lastly, if you have a kitchen garden, banana peels are ideal as natural compost. The potassium will enrich your soil which will, in turn, fertilize your plants.