Have you ever wondered why all bananas look so similar and always taste the same? Did you know that they are one of the most important foods in Africa, and that more than 100 billion bananas are eaten in the world every year? And did you know that we eat bananas today thanks to our ancestors who for thousands of years selectively cultivated this wild plant that is almost inedible?
1. Bananas are one of the most important foods in the world
Although consumed daily around the world, bananas are especially important in East Africa, where they are one of the main food sources for about 50% of the population. In this part of the world, the annual consumption can be even more than 400 kg per person. Bananas are one of the most important foods, especially for developing countries.
More than 100 billion bananas are eaten worldwide each year, making them the fourth largest agricultural product, right after rice, wheat and corn. They are grown in more than 130 countries across the tropics, and about 90% of all bananas in the world grow on small farms and most are consumed locally.
2. Banana is one of the first plants that people began to grow selectively
The modern banana is quite different from its wild, almost inedible cousin (pictured above). It is the product of thousands of years of artificial selection and crossbreeding, just like most of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy today.
Humans began selectively growing bananas around 8000 BC. Musa acuminata is one of the first plants that people domesticated and began to cultivate, in Southeast Asia and surrounding places (possibly New Guinea, eastern Indonesia and the Philippines). Wild bananas contain large, hard seeds and very little flesh. Without the genetic modification achieved by long-term selective breeding, they would be almost inedible today.
3. Bananas do not grow on trees
Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow from a root structure produced by a single stem located above the ground. It is an ordinary perennial plant, the largest herbaceous flowering plant in the world.
According to botanical definitions: raspberries and strawberries are not berries, but bananas are. The botanical definition of a berry is “fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary,” and a banana fits this definition perfectly.
4. Bananas are naturally radioactive
Bananas are a natural source of a radioactive isotope. True, one banana does not have enough radioactive elements to activate the sensors, and especially to harm people, but if they tried to smuggle more peeled bananas, the sensors used in ports to detect smuggled nuclear material would immediately turn on a red light.
Although they are radioactive, the chances of bananas killing you with radioactive radiation are almost zero. They would have to stand in front of 200 peeled bananas in order for the radiation effect to be the same as on the X-ray, and only 20 million bananas would cause deadly radiation poisoning. If you stood in the immediate vicinity of 500 million peeled bananas, it would be the same as if you were standing next to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor for 10 minutes, right after the explosion.
5. Almost all commercial bananas are clones
Almost everything and one commercial banana (e.g. Cavendish variety, the most popular in the world) is a clone of a single plant from Southeast Asia. Genetically, they are all identical. All bananas that are grown must be carefully planted exclusively from the roots of the existing one.
This genetic homogeneity is, of course, very risky. If a parasite or disease attacks this clone, soon everyone could become infected, something that has happened before and had catastrophic consequences for the industry.
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Bananas are generally among the most popular fruits. You may already be eating a lot of bananas or you may be someone looking for reasons to increase your fruit intake. In both cases, you need to know the five main benefits of bananas.