Bananas are the fruit of banana plant (family Musaceae), which are primarily cultivated for consumption. Since the fruit offers a wide range of health benefits to the humankind, the cultivation of banana plants have become widely popular to many areas of the world. Interestingly, banana plants never spring from seeds like most of trees do. The young plants typically sprout from their parent plants at which they form their own leaves and roots within a very small time as they grow their very own plant.
Description of a Banana Plant
The banana plant is normally tall and sturdy, the reason which it can be often mistaken for a tree. The upright stem can grow from 6 to 7.6 meters tall making it the largest flowering plant in the world. The leaves are arranged in a spiral pattern which may grow in 2.7 meters long and 60 cm wide. The heart shaped flower bud is where the banana fruits develop. The fruits of a banana plant come in various sizes and colors. Each bunch is called a “hand” while the fruits are known as “fingers”. Commonly, bananas may have green and yellow skins, but have you seen skins in purple, black, green-white striped bananas? Well, they exist!
The History of Banana Plants
It was Alexander the Great who discovered the taste of the banana in the Indian Valleys in 327 BC and carried it back to the Mediterranean region. In 1482, Portuguese explorers found the banana plant that was originally brought by the early Arab traders to the east coast of Africa. The Portuguese then transported it to the Canary Islands where in the year 1516, the plant found its way across the Atlantic. It was in South and Central American regions that banana growth took off. The tropical islands of the pacific also host bountiful banana plants. However, those first bananas were not like the sweet bananas of today. It was a Jamaican named Jean Francois Poujot who mutated banana and produced the sweet flavor and the yellow color we know today. The production of the exotic banana was welcomed worldwide in the following years. Today, banana plantations are formed in different locations worldwide where bananas grow in abundance.
Health Benefits of Banana Plants
Banana fruits from banana plants make a healthy snack because of its low sodium content and high vitamin A, B, C contents. Aside from these, bananas are also a rich source of Riboflavin, Folic Acid, and Niacin. Because of its high potassium and low salt content, banana fruits have the ability to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Banana also makes a perfect snack to lower both the physical and emotional temperament of pregnant women. Riper bananas can relieve upset stomach due to its fructooligosaccharide content that helps absorb nutrients like calcium.
According to researchers, a banana plant provides a variety of health benefits that include: increased mucus production and mucosal thickness, regulation of peristalsis, acts as an anti-oxidant and as a pre-biotic, anti-microbial property, among many other benefits.
The Banana Plant Stem
Aside from the fruits, the stem of the banana plant is also beneficial to the health. The outer parts of the stems can be a first aid treatment to heat burns. The extract instantly cools off heat and therefore prevents further and major damage to the skin. Banana plant stems are also rich in fiber and therefore helps weight loss. Stem can be taken either in the form of juice or eaten as a whole to include in the diet. Like the fruit itself, banana stem is a good source of potassium and vitamin B6. Aside from its health benefits, stems of banana plants also have industrial value as they can be used in paper making.
The Banana Peel
The banana peel has both medicinal and personal care value. The peel is known for its anti-fungal and antibiotic properties, so if you are fond of hiking and camping and get a poison ivy rash or mosquito bites, a banana peel is a good treatment to alleviate itching, redness and inflammation on the site. A wound can also be healed with the use of banana peels, especially knee injuries. Psoriasis, acne, warts and other skin conditions are also treated with a banana peel. Some people attest that a banana peel has the ability to whiten teeth. Simply rub the peel on the teeth on a circular motion. When used regularly, the effects whitening will be seen in about two weeks.
Furthermore, if you want to shine your silverware and leather-made products, you can make use of a banana peel to bring the glow back in them. However, it’s best to carry out a patch test before applying it. Besides, a banana peel also proves to be good garden compost.
The Banana Leaf
Like all other parts of the banana plant, banana leaves also have its value in the fields of medicine, culinary, industrial, and as self-protection. According to the Department of Horticulture at Purdue University, a banana leaf can treat burns, diarrhea or dysentery and also prevents ulcers. In culinary setting, a banana leaf is occasionally used in cooking, grilling, steaming and eating. Besides, the structure of a banana leaf makes good protection from being soaked in rain and is also a good shelter against the heat of the sun.
Environmental Benefits of Banana Plants
A banana plant is known for its vast usefulness. A recent study conducted by the researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, banana plants can be used in the production of plastic products. The project will not displace food production for a fact that once banana fruits are harvested from the plant, the rest of the trunk goes to waste. The “Badana project” aims to find a use for these wastes, extracting high quality natural fiber to mold plastics. The banana fiber will be processed and treated to make excellent structural properties that of a plastic. Significantly, the raw material for the plastics is, in fact, the waste of banana food production.