The varieties of Bananas
Different kind of bananas differ for size, taste and flesh structure that can be more or less firm.
There are a lot of species of bananas, among which the most known are the banana Cavendish, the banana Musa acuminata and the banana Musa x paradisiaca, result of a crossbreeding. Apart from these species of bananas produced and traded on the fruit and vegetable market, there is another species called plantain: it is a giant herbaceous plant similar to the banana tree, widespread in the major part of the South of the world, above all in India, Malesya, in the Sub-Saharan Africa and in many regions of Central and South America. The fruitplantain is similar to the banana as to shape, but is larger (up to about 40cm), intense green and has a thicker and harder skin: its flesh is poisonous if consumed raw and if it is not completely ripe, while, if cooked or boiled, it can be eaten in many different ways, for example as a puree, a bread or a vegetable.
Nowadays, all the edible varieties of bananas and plantain are hybrids and polyploidy forms of the wild banana with seeds: they are seedless (also called parthenocarpic bananas) and sterile, with a vegetative propagation. These varieties of bananas traded on the international fruit and vegetable market (Musa acuminate or hybrid Musa paradisiaca) are imported in large quantities from the tropics, where they are available all the yearlong.
Among the varieties of bananas produced on the world fruit and vegetable market, the most known and traded are:
- BANANA DWARF CAVENDISH: it is the most important variety of banana cultivated worldwide; it is a triploid variety of banana, native to Vietnam and China. The name Dwarf Cavendish refers to the size of the pseudostem and not of the fruit that instead is medium-large. This variety of banana has a thin skin and is less resistant to transports, even though nowadays it is the most commonly cultivated and traded banana.
- BANANA GROS MICHEL: the variety of banana Gros Michel is also known in the Usa with the name Big Mike, and it is the first variety of banana assigned to the mass exports. With a quite thick skin, this variety of banana is larger and sweeter than the variety Cavendish.
- BANANA GRAND NAIN: it is one of the most commonly cultivated and traded variety of banana on the world fruit and vegetable sector; it is also known with the name Chiquita banana, because it is the main variety of banana produced by Chiquita Brands International. Even this kind of fruit and vegetable product suits well to be cultivated using organic methods.
- BANANA LACATAN: the variety of banana Lacatan is a sweet banana, very popular in the Philippines; the plant of Lacatan banana can be 5-9 metres tall. Fruits can be harvested from 8 to 12 months after the sewing of the plant: bananas of this variety are longer and the skin is thicker compared to the other varieties of banana produced. These bananas have a typical yellow-orange colour when completely ripe.
- BANANA LADY'S FINGER: variety of banana whose fruits are small and very sweet; they have a thin skin. It is one of the most known wild varieties of bananas and it represents alone about 14% of the Australian production of bananas. This sweet banana has a delicate taste and it is easier to be consumed becacuse of its smaller size compared to other cultivars of bananas. This fruit and vegetable product is ideal for fruit salads and cake decorations, as it does not become brown when sliced.
- BANANA ROJA (red variety of banana): red variety of banana that has a typical red or violet skin. In general fruits are smaller and larger than Cavendish bananas and, when ripe, the flesh colour becomes rose or cream. This variety of banana is imported above all from Asia and South America, and is traded mainly in Central America.
The varieties of banana, such as the red Roja, the Lacatan banana and the Lady’s Finger banana do not arrive to the European fruit and vegetable markets, because these varieties of fresh fruit do not resist to transports; therefore they are varieties of bananas that can be appreciated only in the areas of production, that are mainly exotic areas.
Furthermore, in Italy, the cultivation of bananas has recently started in Sicily and in Sardinia, with good results, thanks to the drought and the hot weather that have recently characterized the climates of these islands: the variety of banana produced in Italy is a dwarf variety (Musa nana), with a small and very sweet fruit.