Bananas are the fourth most important food in the world today.
Bananas are around 22 % carbohydrate and are high in dietary fibre, potassium, manganese and vitamins B6 and C.
Hawaiians have over 30 different terms to describe the various stages of fruit ripening.
Individual plants flower and fruit only once.
Common names: Banana (Gros Michel?) – Local/Bislama names for the varieties: Vetaï tamouté (white man’s banana - Cavendish), Switi, Sweet Tuven, Wan Manis (one month), Franis (French), Mignonette (sweet)
Bananas are thought to have been first domesticated in Southeast Asia. They are native to the Indo-Malesian, Asian and the Australian tropics. Bananas are widely distributed and cultivated throughout all Pacific Islands and are a staple food plant. They are a major crop throughout most of Vanuatu.
Banana are giant herbs whose underground stem forms a false trunk which is 2-9 m tall at maturity.
Bananas can be planted and harvested year-round.
Wide-spreading and long leaves, up to 3.5 m in length and 65 cm in width. They are comprised of a stalk (petiole) and blade. Leaves are arranged in a spiral around the ‘trunk’. They are easily torn by wind.
A vertical inflorescence (flower head) forms a cluster or bunch, that is arranged in a spiral. The axils (upper angle between the leaf stalk/branch and the trunk) has rows of flowers. Bananas have both male and female flowers. Female flowers can turn into fruit and are found closer to the leaves. The male flower is generally purple-red and is usually found below the bunch of fruits.
Fruits grow in large hanging clusters (bunches) near the top of the plant. They are made up 10 to 20 tiers, which are called ‘hands’. Each tier can contain up to 20 fruit. Individual fruit are known as banana or ‘finger’. The fruit has a protective peel with long, thin strings running lengthwise between the peel and the edible inner portion. The end of the fruit has a small darker tip which is the remains of the flower. The fruit ripen to a full yellow colour at ambient equatorial temperatures.
When to Look
Where to Look
There are several banana and plantain varieties in the Pacific.
Musa species can be distinguished by the colour, size, shape, and taste of the ripened fruit, the flowers, leaf thickness and orientation, and the height of the plant. Most edible bananas originate from either Musa acuminata or M. balbisiana. M. balbisiana has obvious seeds within the fruit.
Ensete species are similar to banana plants but generally have a crimson midrib on the leaves. Unlike the Musa species, the fruit are dry, seedy, and inedible, and the entire plant dies after fruiting.