Saturday, December 4

Bananas for Banana's

So perhaps it is the monkey in me, but I have always loved Bananas. I just recently learned of all these awesome facts and thought I would pass on my great knowledge. And just so you know I prefer my bananas slightly green when they are still a little hard. And now I shall enlighten you, as always.

First off with a little history lesson, Bananas have been grown and cultivated as a food source for nearly a million years. It is believed to have originated from the jungles of Asia, and is grown on the world’s largest herb plant, yeah herb plant turns out banana trees are not actually trees at all. Many experts believe that bananas were the first fruit cultivated by humans. Alexander the Great came across bananas in India in 327 B.C. and it is quite possible that they were the reason for his great military victory at least if you ask me. Bananas were then introduced to the United States at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Celebration, where they were sold wrapped in foil for 10 cents each. Since bananas have made their appearance in North America, the only time they have been conspicuously absent was in 1941 when both American and British governments requisitioned all large ships–including boats transporting bananas-- to aid in WWII war efforts.

India is the #1 banana producer in the world, and worldwide banana's are the fourth largest fruit crop. The most popular banana cultivar in the world is the Cavendish. This is the banana most often seen in U.S. and European markets. About four million bananas, grown and harvested year-round, are imported to North America each year.

The three largest banana companies in operation as of 1999 were Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole, and together they have cornered more than 60 percent of the world banana market. Chiquita was initially called the United Fruit Company. In the 20th century, they played a controversial role in the politics of Central America, where they had vast holdings. The company earned the nickname of "The Octopus" in the region because they had their hands in so many political pots.

Now just how popular is the banana? --- Well here are the facts
-The average American consumes 28 pounds of bananas per year.
-In Uganda, bananas are such a big part of the diet that the same word, matooke, is used for both "food" and "banana."
So I would say they are pretty darn popular, maybe this is where the whole concept of evolving from monkey's comes from?

Growing banana's is not too difficult if you live in the right climate that is. They are typically ready to be harvested 8-10 weeks after its appearance on the plant. Propagation of the banana plant is done through shoots from the rhizomes; banana seeds are sterile; in order to grown and propagate, the banana plant must have tropical sunny temperatures (not going to get to grow them here in Binghamton :( ), rich soil, and lots of water; virtually all bananas are grown in southern tropical countries. The fruit is harvested green :), then shipped to special ripening facilities where it will take anywhere from three and a half to seven days to finish ripening. It takes about two and a half weeks for the fruit to be harvested, ripened, and placed on supermarket shelves.

At home, bananas should be keep at room temperature, or hung on a banana hook for the best results. Bananas can be placed in the refrigerator for slower ripening. The peeling will darken, but the fruit will remain firm for several days. Green or green-tipped bananas are best for cooking and/or broiling. The fruit actually ripens best off the plant, so don’t be afraid to purchase green bananas. When left on the plant too long, they fruit tends to split open and become tasteless yucky. Yellow bananas are perfect for eating fresh or adding to your favorite salad or sandwich. Brown-speckled bananas, or ripe and/or overripe fruit are still good for baking. In order to ripen a green or green-tipped banana in your home, place it in a brown paper bag for a couple of hours. It’s possible to hasten the ripening process of other fruits and vegetables by placing them in a brown paper bag overnight with several ripe bananas. As a general rule the closer the bananas are to other food products the faster they will ripen.

Now for Banana Vocab....Bunches of bananas are referred to as hands, while a single banana is called a finger. A cluster of bananas is anywhere from four to eight individual fruits.The strings that go up and down the length of bananas are called Phloem Bundles. (They help distribute nutrients to every part of the growing bananas.) The yellow bananas that are most often sold in supermarkets are sometimes called "dessert bananas" because they are soft and sweet.

Now how about nutrition? Ounce for ounce, the fruit of a banana is a good source of Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, which also adds to its appeal. But wait, there are far more health benefits to this delicious yellow fruit. Such as ....

*Reducing Depression
Bananas contain tryptophan, an aminoacid that can be converted to serotonin, leading to improved mood

* Helping Reduce Anemia
Bananas are relatively high in iron, which helps the body's hemoglobin function

*Reducing Constipation and Diarrhea
Due to their content in fiber, they help restore a normal bowel function. In addition, diarrhea usually depletes your body of important electrolytes (of which the most important is potassium, contained in high amounts in bananas). They also contain pectin, a soluble fiber (hydrocolloid) that can help normalize movement through the digestive tract.

*Eyesight Protection
Research published in the Archives of Ophthalmology has proven that adults consuming at least 3 servings of fruit per day have a reduced risk (by 36%) of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

*Healthy Bones
Bananas are an exceptionally rich source of fructooligosaccharide, a compound that nourishes probiotic (friendly) bacteria in the colon. These beneficial bacteria produce enzymes that increase our digestive ability and protect us from unhealthy bacteria infections. Thanks to fructooligosaccharides, probiotic bacteria can increase both in number and functionality, increasing our body's ability to absorb calcium.

In addition, green bananas- my favorite :-) contain indigestible short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are very nutrient to the cells that make up the mucosa of the stomach. These cells, when healthy, absorb calcium much more efficiently

*Healthy Kidney
About 190,000 cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed each year.
Research published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that daily consumption of whole fruits and vegetables, especially- you guess it- bananas, is highly protective to kidney health. The results show that, over a long timeframe (13.4 years), women eating more than 2.5 servings of fruits and vegetable per day cut their risk of kidney cancer by 40%. Among the fruits, bananas were especially protective. Women eating bananas four to six times a week halved their risk of developing the disease compared to those who did not eat this fruit. The conclusion of the study is that frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, cabbage and root vegetables, may reduce risk of kidney cancer. This is because bananas and many root vegetables contain especially high amounts of antioxidant phenolic compounds.

*Blood Pressure
Bananas are extremely high in potassium (about 4673mg), yet very low in sodium (1mg), thus having a perfect ratio for preventing high blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

*Morning Sickness
Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood-sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. They contain vitamins B6 and B12 they contain, as well as potassium and magnesium: these substances help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

This is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicle cases. It also helps reduce acidity and reduces irritation. Bananas stimulate the cells on the internal stomach lining to produce a thicker mucus (which protects against acid). Additionally, bananas contain protease inhibitors that help eliminate bacteria in the stomach that have been pinpointed as a primary cause of ulcers.

Bananas are high in B vitamins that have been shows to improve nerve function

*Mosquito Bites
Many people report that rubbing the inside of a banana peel on a mosquito bite is very effective in reducing itching and swelling

*Stress Relief
Bananas are high in potassium, which helps normalize the hearthbeat and regulate the body's water balance. During periods of high stress, our body's potassium levels tend to be rapidly depleted: eating bananas is a healthy way to rebalance them without using drugs

*Stroke Risk
According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can reduce the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%

In summary if you have a problem no matter what it is eat a banana it will fix everything :-)

Banana peel has its uses as well and is also edible although not very yummy if you ask me. The peeling makes a good fertilizer for rose bushes. Simply dig a hole near the rose bush and bury the peeling, or use it to heal those mosquito bits.

Warning to those allergic to latex as About 50 percent of people who are allergic to latex are often also allergic to bananas. Stinks for you guys.

And some final random banana facts,
The song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" was released in 1923 and became a huge hit. It refers to the banana shortage at the time. Click the title to hear it.

In 2001, Britain recorded 300 incidents of injuries related to bananas. The majority of these involved people slipping on banana peels. Watch out!

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