Bananas and plantains together are the world’s fourth most important food crop, following rice, wheat, and corn. They are grown in every humid tropical region are cultivated every day of the year.
There are hundreds of varieties ranging in color from yellow to green to dark red. The plantain is considered a vegetable, while others are considered fruit and referred to as dessert-bananas.
According to the Future Harvest of the 95 million metric tons of bananas grown annually, approximately one-third is produced in each of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Some 85 percent of the global crop is produced for home consumption and local trade, largely without the use of pesticides, leaving them highly susceptible to disease. The 15 percent of the global banana crop grown for export relies heavily on chemical inputs.
The plant needs about one year of frost-free conditions to produce a flower stalk. The plant requires a warm climate — most of the varieties stop growing when the temperature falls below 53° F. The temperature cannot be too hot either. Growth slows down when the temperature rises above 80° F and stop entirely at 100° F.
Bananas were originally cultivated in the Malaysian jungles of Southeast Asia.
When Spanish explorers arrived in the Americas, they brought the banana. According to historians, Friar Tomas de Berlanga brought the first banana root stocks to the Western Hemisphere.
Bananas were officially introduced to the U.S. public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents.
BANANAS AND COFFEE
Bananas are often incorporated into coffee cultivation as bananas grow best in full sun. and coffee plants grow best in the shade.
Species: Musa acuminata Colla, M. X paradisiaca L. (hybrid)
Related species Abyssinian Banana (Ensete ventricossum Cheesman), Musa balbisina Colla, M. ornata Roxb., M. textilis Nee
BANANAS IN OAXACA
Mexico’s prime banana-growing regions are in the southern part of the country.
In the state of Oaxaca, the town of Pluma Hidalgo is well known for its coffee and banana production. Species cultivated include morado, tabasco (also called roatan), piña, guineo (also called ‘costa rica’), manzano and peron.
Other bananas commonly available in Oaxaca City include Dominico, Seda and Rombo.