Banana

Bananas (Musa paradisiaca var. sapientum, of the family Musaceae) are native to India and Malaysia and are grown in every wet tropical area in the world. The cultivated varieties are derived from the wild species M. acuminata and M. balbisiana, and a number of other Musa spp. are grown as ornamental plants. The only edible species that thrives outside the tropics, where the temperature never falls below 18°C, is M. cavendishii, which despite its delicious flavor is not popular because its small brown fruit is less desirable in appearance. Bananas are the most widely consumed and most highly consumed (in terms of volume) of any fresh fruit in the world, partially due to their ease of shipping and year-round availability.

Musa spp. are large herbaceous plants that grow from an underground rhizome. The shoots, which may be up to 30 ft tall, produce an inflorescence at the top that develops into a stem of bananas. The weight of the bananas, up to 120 lb, causes the stem to bend over. After harvesting, the stem is cut off and left in the field. A new planting will produce a stem in about 18 months, and a daughter stem from the same rhizome will produce a stem in about 12 months. A third stem from the same rhizome may produce a stem in about 8 months, after which the field is usually replanted. The stem is cut while the fruit is immature and green in color, and the fruit ripens during and after shipping. This provides a 2- to 3-week period for shipping, which is very convenient for worldwide delivery. Most of the banana production is centered in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

The large fresh fruit industry provides the raw material for the processed industry because fruit that is unsuitable for the fresh trade or is in oversupply is usually processed. The green fruit is transported to the holding sheds, treated with ethylene gas to ensure uniform ripening, and processed. The major product is banana puree, which is made by mechanically peeling the fruit, pureeing the flesh, and deseeding the puree if desired. Actually, bananas have no seeds; the black specks are atrophied seed bags, but they are commonly called seeds. The seeds can be removed with a screen. The puree is then deaerated, which also removes some of the flavor essence. The flavor components are collected and added back to the puree. The puree can be packed as single strength or (more often) concentrated and thermally treated or frozen before packaging. Both single-strength and concentrated puree are used extensively in the baby food industry, as juice components, and in many baking and confectionery products. Banana flakes are prepared by drum-drying the puree. Banana powder is made by grinding banana flakes. Banana "figs" are made by drying slices of ripe bananas. Banana chips are made by slicing green cooking bananas and deep-frying them in oil. A number of other minor products are also made.

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