Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Friday, March 14, 2014

Going Bananas or Going for… the Bananas…

Bananas are one of the oldest fruits known to man.

They are wonderful snacks made of sweet-creamy flesh; they come prepackaged in individual yellow jackets, and they are available all year–round almost every were in the world.

Some horticulturists have placed the banana’s origin in Southeast Asia, in the jungles of Malaysia, Indonesia, or the Philippines, where they have been growing since the year 500 BC.

Furthermore, some people give credit for the current name to the Arab world, apparently because the word banana derived from the Arab word ‘banan’ that means “finger.” 

Whether this is true or only an interesting piece of trivia, the fact is that “Bananas” have become the most popular fruit in the world.

They are an essential source of income and employment for many households, as well as being a great source of nutrition and job security for more than 400 million people in producer countries.
Most bananas are grown for export on large plantations in Latin America an increasingly in Africa.

Some of the big producers are:
Brasil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe & Martinique, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana.

The countries mentioned above are producers for the five international companies controlling the banana trade worldwide.

Now that U.S. banana producer Chiquita Brands International and Ireland’s Fyffes have agreed to merge, they will create the world’s largest banana company, displacing Dole from the No. 1 spot. (New York CNNMoney)

It has been said that the new company will continue listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but will have its legal headquarter in Ireland with the purpose of taking advantage of tax savings.

The deal is expected to go through this year. Even though it will be subject to review by U.S. and European regulators, it is unlikely to find any problem in the process.

This new deal between Chiquita and Fyffes certainly will represent changes for the producers worldwide, hopefully those changes will benefit the people working in the banana plantations around the world; they deserve to receive a fair treatment in exchange for the delicious bananas they produce with such hard work.

In Costa Rica is easy to ignore the controversy around the monopoly of banana trade, simply because this wonderful and tasty fruit can be grown almost in every house. In rural areas is common to see lots of banana plants growing wild along the roads, they feed anyone wanting to take the fruits as well as the monkeys in the area.

Bananas are fast-growing herbaceous perennials arising from underground rhizomes. The fleshy stalks formed by upright concentric layers of leaf sheaths constitute the functional trunks.

The true stem begins as an underground bulb, which grows upwards, pushing its way out through the center of the stalk, somewhere around 12 months after being planted, eventually produces the terminal “inflorescence” or group of flowers arranged on a stem, which will later bear the fruit. Each stalk produces one huge flower cluster and then dies.

The banana plant grows 10 to 26 feet in height and belongs to the family Musaceae. The banana fruit grows in clusters of 50 to 150, with individual fruits grouped in bunches of 10 to 25, and they are known as “hands.”

Bananas abound in many edible varieties, all of them falling into two distinct species: the sweet banana (Musa sapient, Musa nana) and the plantain banana (Musa paradisiacal). Sweet bananas come in different sizes and colors, and their names vary according to the specific region. The following link shows an interesting list of names.
When we think of sweet bananas, what usually comes to mind is the yellow-jacketed banana; however, there are others with outfits going from pink, red, purple, and even black tones when ripe. Each color carries a particular flavor and texture.

The yellow bananas are known as Cavendish, they are long, and the flesh is  creamy and sweet.

Red bananas are known in the US as Cuban Red, among other names, they are shorter and chubbier than the Cavendish; their skin is softer, they have a core and seeds, sweet and delicious with a light raspberry-apple flavor.

Apple-silk bananas are chunkier and thicker than regular bananas; the skin has a pale gold color. These bananas are sweeter when their skins begin to blacken or even become very black.

Minis are the variety of banana half the size of an average one; their skin is thinner and when the tips are still green, they have a tangy taste; however, when the peel is covered with specks, they are sweeter than any other banana, at that point it is easier to peel them from the bottom.

Plantains are a member of the banana family.
They are firm, low in sugar, and starchy; they are used in savory dishes, sometimes as a substitute of potato. It has to be cooked before serving because it is uneatable when raw. It is commonly fried or baked; either way is excellent as a side dish or dessert.

They have a higher beta-carotene concentration than most sweet bananas.
Plantains are considered more a vegetable than a fruit.
This vegetable-banana has a different taste at every stage of development, for example, when the peel goes from green to yellow, the flavor of the flesh is bland, and its texture is starchy. As the peel changes to brown or black, the flesh becomes sweeter and the aroma and flavor are more like the banana. Even when they are very ripe, they never lose the firmness of the flesh, which makes them always easy to cook.

Bananas are good for your health
Bananas are a very good source of vitamin B-6 and an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, potassium, biotin, fiber, and Cooper. 
Cardiovascular protection is one of the gifts from the bananas; the content of potassium in an average banana is 400-plus mg and only one mg of sodium; this daily dosage can help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis.

Bananas have been known for their antacid effects that protect against stomach ulcers and ulcer damage.

Bananas help to nourish probiotic (friendly) bacteria in the colon; that beneficial bacteria produces vitamins and digestive enzymes that improve the ability to absorb nutrients; some studies suggest they also help to decrease the risk of colon cancer.

Bananas are also a great way to prevent osteoporosis, eating them frequently can improve your body’s ability to absorb calcium properly.

Wherever you are in the world; most likely, you have enjoyed the sweet and soothing taste of the bananas. They are awesome, aren’t they?
Instead going bananas, I decided to go for the bananas, and I hope you do it too, they are a versatile fruit, you can have a banana smoothie, bake them into banana bread or banana muffins, bananas flambé are delicious, and... think about a banana cream pie, and doesn’t it sound scrumptious?

When you come to Costa Rica, you will have the banana experience, bananas everywhere, all kinds, colors, and shapes.

You will find them in beverages, main dishes, desserts, snack, and of course, just hanging in there in their yellow jackets by the road, welcoming you to their tropical paradise.

What a gift from mother nature!

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