Musa x paradisiaca

Musa x paradisiaca

Banana plants (Musa × paradisiaca L., 1753) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Musaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subarign Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Liliopsida class,
Subclass Zingiberidae,
Zingiberales Order,
Musaceae family,
Genus Muse,
M. × paradisiaca species.

Etymology –
The term Musa comes from the Arabic moz or moza banano, Latinized by botanists in Musa. Others believe that the name recalls Antonio Musa, a Roman physician of the 1st century. B.C.
The specific paradisiacal epithet comes from paradisiacal, of paradise, from the ecclesiastical Latin paradisus paradise: in reference to the goodness of fruits.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
This taxon, described by Linnaeus in 1753, summarizes the hybrid forms of M. acuminata and M. balbisiana whose cultivars produce the great majority of the varieties of bananas for food use on the market today. This taxonomic classification, although obsolete, is still accepted, even if not suitable, to describe the hundreds of hybrid forms already present since ancient times and presumably created by domestication; A classification system was therefore introduced which divides the various hybrids on the basis of their genome.
The banana tree is however native to the tropical and humid jungles of South-East Asia, from where it was introduced in Europe, in the seventh century, thanks to merchants; later, in the 15th century, it was brought from the Canary Islands to America. Banana for fruit production has been cultivated in the Canary Islands since the end of the 19th century.

Description –
Banana plants is a gigantic herbaceous plant with a short stem until flowering that lives more than three years.
The tall stem is actually a pseudo-stem that derives from the petioles of the leaves and reaches a height of about 7.5 m.
The root system develops from a short rhizome, which is the authentic trunk; this is superficial, so the plant is sensitive to drought and competition from wild herbs that can grow around it.
Starting from the underground rhizome, the buds develop, which by germinating produce the shoots; their terminal buds, in turn, will produce the inflorescence that opens from a purplish cone.
The leaves, light green in color and sometimes with brown spots, are arranged in a spiral, are very long (from 2 to 4 m and 0.5 m wide) and open at a rate of one a week; with the wind and age they break, taking on the appearance of fringes.
The flowers are yellow and are gathered in hands; in each hand 3 to 20 fruits are formed. The hands are gathered in a “regime or helmet”, which can contain from 5 to 20 ‘hands’ or tufts.
Bananas are green in color and turn yellow with dark spots when ripe, the pulp is very tasty, soft and sweet, yellowish-white in color.
The fruit, the banana, is parthenocarpic or seedless.

Cultivation –
Currently, banana is the fourth most important crop in the world, after rice, wheat and maize; in many countries it is consumed as a fruit, but in others it is one of the staple foods and one of the most important exports.
Its diffusion is mainly due to the food properties of the fruits, which are mainly of two types: banana variety and plane tree variety. Especially the latter is of fundamental importance for the nutrition of many peoples, as it represents their main source of starch and nutrition. The edible fruits of both varieties, in fact, can be consumed in all degrees of ripeness, both raw and cooked, and if grown in areas with a suitable climate, they bear fruit several times a year.
Bananas, that is the fruits, are formed by parthenocarpy, therefore fertilization is not necessary. The optimal conditions for cultivation correspond to those of tropical or subtropical areas. In fact they need average temperatures, which oscillate between 26 ° and 27 ° C and prefer the plains near the coast and protected from the wind. Around the Mediterranean they can be cultivated, but high quality fruits are not obtained; moreover, the plants suffer damage due to low temperatures (below 13 ° C) and high temperatures (above 45 ° C).
Constant rains and high air humidity are two other environmental requirements for banana cultivation. The development of the new shoots is conditioned by the quantity and intensity of the light, especially in the subtropical areas, so that as the period of illumination decreases, a longer development process corresponds.
Banana grows in any type of soil, even if it prefers fertile ones, with the presence of water in summer and dry in winter; tolerates a wide range of pH, from 3.5 up to 9.
In the Canaries, varieties of dwarf banana are grown, the fruit of which has an excellent flavor and excellent preservation qualities. ‘Gran enana’, ‘Pequena enana’ and ‘Zelig’, are the varieties that have adapted best to the conditions of the Canary Islands; varieties obtained from local selections are also grown, such as ‘Brier’ and ‘Gruesa’.
Banana trees are planted in quincunx to make better use of the land. In a 3.5 x 35 m layout, two plants are arranged per hole; after 2 months the best is preserved, selecting shoots arranged as far as possible.
Growth is rapid if the climatic conditions are right, in about 10/12 months the banana plant will flower. The banana flower develops inside the stem until it is ready.
This plant, when it comes out, sprays water, so much so that its birth by the natives is compared to the birth of a child. The purple inflorescence is now ready for fertilization.
Care must be taken not to cut the leaves that surround it, because they serve to shelter it from the sun and wait for fertilization to take place.
At this point the petals will open, leaving the bunches of bananas in plain sight. The underside of the banana pods is the male flower (also known as the banana heart), which is also edible in some varieties. This is the time when you can cut to make the plant’s energies focus on the bananas.
After the banana harvest, the tree dies. The stem on the opposite side of the bunch of bananas will be engraved with a machete, the remaining part will then be cut from the rhizome, taking care not to damage the new suckers. Of these, only one will be left which will bear fruit the following year.
The others can be transplanted into new holes to make other trees. This operation must be done with care, intervening with fertilizer on the mother plant and then cutting off the apical part of the sucker in order to facilitate its rooting.
As far as pruning is concerned, this must be done when the mother plant has borne fruit, by pruning 60 cm from the ground: the new selected shoots will replace the dry ones. The three phases of the banana cycle are completed in:
– 6-8 months, for the vegetative phase;
– 3-4 months, for flowering;
– 3-4 months, for fruiting.
For the harvest it is necessary to wait 3-4 months for the first fruits.
As soon as the bunch is ripe, cut it, taking care to divide the bananas with soft material to prevent bruising.

Customs and Traditions –
Banana plants is a plant that, in addition to fruits, as in the cuisine of Bengal and Kerala (in India), flowers are used, raw or cooked. In the same countries and also in Burma the tender heart of the banana trunk is also used.
Another way to consume the fruit is drying. Dried bananas have a dark brown color and a typical, intense flavor.
Bananas have also been used to make jams. However, unlike other fruits, bananas have only recently been used to make juices and juices. Despite 85% water content, it has historically been difficult to extract juice from the fruit because, when pressed, a banana simply becomes pulp. In 2004, scientists from the “Bhabha Atomic Research Center” (BARC, India), patented a technique for extracting the juice by treating the banana pulp in a vessel with a reaction that takes 4 to 24 hours.
In Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo it is customary to ferment bananas to obtain an alcoholic drink, called kasiksi.
The large, flexible and waterproof banana leaves are used as umbrellas and for wrapping food.
Finally, the inner surface of the banana peel can be rubbed over the irritation caused by the Canadian ivy to bring down the symptoms. In addition, the skin of the banana was used as a medicine for the treatment of psoriasis. You can also use banana peel as an eco-friendly shoe polish.
Banana is one of the most nutritious and tasty fruits, loved by young and old for its soft texture and particularly sweet flavor. Practical, “portable” snack, it gives precious energy to those who choose it.
Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamins and minerals. In addition, it brings great benefits to the body: it fights cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, regulates the intestine and helps the mood.
In fact, they contain a lot of potassium, which is useful for eliminating liquids, limiting water retention and controlling high blood pressure, thus promoting the good functioning of the cardio-vascular system. In collaboration with magnesium, the fruits help against cramps and are also ideal for those who do physical activity. Bananas also have a calming effect on acidity and heartburn, and its fibers better manage intestinal irregularity, hindering constipation.
Bananas are usually eaten fresh, natural. But it is also excellent blended with milk or other fruit to create tasty and nutritious smoothies, cut into pieces in yogurt, cut into fruit salads, in the form of ice cream. It can also be used to garnish various cakes and desserts or as an ingredient for desserts such as banana bread.
In addition to food uses, banana plants and their fruits have traditionally been used to treat many diseases, especially in Asia and Africa.
In tribal communities all parts of the plant are used (fruit, stem, flower, leaf, sap, stem, inner core and root) for therapeutic preparations useful to counteract numerous pathologies:
– blood pressure control;
– diabetes;
– hypertension;
– anemia, up to allergies;
– infections, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases, as well as fever, cough;
– tuberculosis;
– dysentery.
The root extract is still used today to prevent conception, to induce labor during childbirth and to treat infections of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV / AIDS, internal and external sores of the genital parts, vaginitis and leukorrhea.
Other traditional uses include application as an antiemetic, to treat wounds and blisters and to relieve joint pain and improve blood circulation.
The banana, in addition to its great versatility and its unique taste, is a fruit rich in phytonutrients, including vitamins (C, A and B vitamins) and phenolic compounds.
On average, a banana has about 66 kcal / 100 g and contains vitamins C, E, B, B2, B6, PP, A, as well as potassium (400 mg / 100 g), calcium, phosphorus, copper and iron.
Both the pulp and the banana peel contain various phenolic and flavonoid compounds.
Among its active ingredients we mention:
– gallic acid;
– catechin;
– epicatechin;
– tannins;
– anthocyanins.
The main classes of flavonoids found in bananas are the flavonols, which include quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol and cyanidin. These act as protective “scavengers” against free radicals, responsible for aging and various chronic diseases.
The banana peel and pulp also contain biogenic amines, such as:
– serotonin;
– dopamine;
– norepinephrine.
Serotonin contributes to the feeling of well-being and happiness while dopamine plays an important role in improving mood, the ability to concentrate and emotional stability.
Other compounds characterizing bananas are carotenoids, which are also responsible for their intense yellow color.
Thanks to their particular organoleptic composition, bananas have many beneficial properties.
They are antioxidants and anticancer: banana pulp contains bioactive compounds, such as phenolic acids and flavonoids, with high antioxidant potential and useful in the prevention of chronic diseases, including cancers.
It is useful against cramps and to control pressure: bananas contain a lot of potassium: perfect allies, therefore, for athletes to prevent cramps during training or during performance.
Furthermore, the important presence of potassium, together with the low sodium content, makes bananas useful in controlling blood pressure.
As a natural antidepressant: serotonin, derived from the tryptophan contained in the banana, helps to overcome or prevent depression by positively influencing mood and relaxing the body.
It is suitable for diabetics: the banana contains resistant starch with low digestibility compared to the high glycemic index starches of cereals. Thanks to its hypoglycemic action it is therefore suitable for the diet of diabetic patients. In fact, its daily consumption improves insulin sensitivity.
Excellent for the intestine and stomach: the banana also has positive effects on the intestine: pharmacological investigations have shown that the banana is effective and beneficial in the treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
The fruits are also perfect against constipation thanks to the high content of dietary fiber.
Against cholesterol: they contain a good amount of phytosterols. It is the natural plant sterols that lower cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing its absorption in the intestine.
Other uses of this fruit or parts of the plant are then linked to local traditions and medical applications.
Among the contraindications of the banana we remember that:
– it could cause intolerance in subjects predisposed to the presence of allergenic proteins. In fact, those who take beta-blocking drugs because they are heart patients should consume bananas in moderation to avoid hyperkalemia, that is, a condition of excessive potassium in the blood;

Preparation Method –
In the Musa × paradisiaca, in addition to the raw or cooked consumption of fruits, like other banana trees, the male flower is edible and when cooked it has a taste similar to an artichoke. The stem is also edible and is used in India for many dishes.
In the Philippines, Banana Cue is commonly offered by street vendors. It is a snack obtained by frying bananas wrapped in caramelized brown sugar. A delight for anyone who loves sweet flavors.
Also in the Philippines, a condiment is used which is, in fact, a banana ketchup. It’s super easy to make and incredibly delicious. Just combine mashed banana, sugar, vinegar and spices. Banana ketchup is the perfect accompaniment to an omelette.
In England there is a banana dessert called Banoffee pie. It’s a tasty mix of bananas, cream and toffee, all set on top of a biscuit and butter base.
The Matsès and Shipibo, indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon jungle, are the creators of a banana drink called Chapo. It is made with boiled sweet bananas, cinnamon and cloves.
In addition, in some cuisines, bananas and pork are an exceptional pairing. Tacaho is another dish from Peru; they are roasted bananas of the Amazonian culinary tradition, served with cecina and pork cubes. Sweet and savory create a tasty combination.
Furthermore, a flour is obtained from bananas. Historically, it was used in Africa and Jamaica as a cheap alternative to regular flour. However, it is now used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flours and is a common ingredient in paleo recipes.
The banana is then put into the stuffed pastry. The Indonesians prepare the Nagasaris. They are traditional steamed rolls made with rice flour, coconut milk and sugar, then filled with banana slices.
Bananas are also great in soups. A hot banana soup is typical of Puerto Rico. Here a vegetarian banana soup is prepared flavored with paprika, cumin, coriander seeds and black pepper. It is then served with pan de Agua, a typical Puerto Rican bread, avocado, parmesan and parsley.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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