Musaceae (Banana family)
Ripe plantains are fermented to make a mildly alcoholic drink.
Description. Erect herbaceous perennial plant, 5-7 m (16-23 ft) tall, with a fleshy rhizome that produces a succulent pseudostem comprising numerous leaf sheaths. The main pseudostem is surrounded by smaller suckers. Lanceolate leaf blades are 2-2.5 m (6.6-8 ft) long by 40-60 cm (16-24 in) wide. The inflorescence, a transformed growing point, is a terminal spike shooting out from the heart in the tip of the stem and then bending down toward the ground. Tubular, pale yellow, monoecious flowers are grouped in double rows and covered by a fleshy, maroon bract. Female flowers, which develop into plantains, are produced near the base; males emerge toward the tip. Fruits are angled yellow berries with a firm, yellow or orange-yellow flesh, 20-30 cm (8-12 in) long. Modern cultivars are usually seedless.
Benefits Of: PLANTAIN Photo Gallery
Origin and Distribution. M. acuminata is probably native to Southeast Asia, from where it spread in prehistoric time to South Asia and Oceania. M. balbisiana is native to a large region from Sri Lanka and India to southern China. Today the plantain, a hybrid of the two wild ancestor species, is widely cultivated throughout the humid tropics.
Food uses. Unripe, green plantains are commonly eaten as a vegetable. They are boiled, fried, grilled, or baked and used in soups, stews, and stir-fries as well as in meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. In many regions of Latin America, thick, unripe slices of plantain are fried, flattened into patties, fried again, and salted to make patacones or tostones. They are commonly served with a variety of savory dishes such as grilled fish or meat. In parts of Africa and in the Caribbean, boiled plantains are mashed, seasoned with spices, and served with a tomato sauce as a dish called fufu. Thin slices or strips of green plantain, deep-fried and salted, are popular as chips.
Ripe plantains are commonly fried in oil or butter and served as a side dish or dessert. Fully ripe plantains can be eaten raw in fruit salads, although they are not as sweet as a dessert banana. Dried plantains are made into flour that is often used as infant food. Ripe plantains are fermented to make a mildly alcoholic drink. In parts of Asia, the inflorescences are eaten as a vegetable and the male flowers are used in soups and salads.
The leaves of plantains are commonly used as plates or to wrap food.
Comments. Plantains are not as sweet as dessert bananas because they contain more starch and less sugar (15% compared with 19% in a dessert banana). Plantains are a good source of potassium, magnesium, niacin, and vitamins B6 and C.
The major producers of plantains are Uganda, Ghana, and Colombia. The plant is very often cultivated as a dooryard plant.
Description. Perennial, herbaceous, 2-10 m (2.633 ft) tall, with erect, cylindrical pseudostems of overlapping leaf sheaths and a short, thick underground corm. New, tightly rolled leaves emerge from the center of the pseudostem. Blades light green, oblong, 1.6-3.8 m (5.3-12.5 ft) long, with a prominent midrib and parallel veins. Terminal drooping inflorescence with groups of tubular, yellow or pink monoecious flowers arranged in 2 rows covered by fleshy, purplish-red bracts. Female or hermaphroditic flowers are produced in the upper part of the inflorescence and male flowers in the lower part. Berrylike fruits yellow or reddish, curved, 8-38 cm (3-15 in) long, usually seedless.
Origin and Distribution. The exact origin of the banana is unknown, but it very likely originated in the Indo-Malayan region. Evidence arising from archaeological and paleoenvironmental studies at Kuk Swamp in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea suggests a very long history of banana cultivation dating back at least 7,000 years and possibly as far back as 10,000 years. Bananas grow best in hot, humid climates on rich, well-drained soils. Today the banana is extensively cultivated throughout the tropics.
Food uses. Bananas are eaten raw, fried, or baked. They are commonly used in fruit salads, desserts, sweets, ice cream, juices, and milk shakes. In Africa they are fermented to make a beerlike alcoholic beverage. Ripe fruits are used to make banana-vinegar. Bananas are also made into jams and preserves. Fruit slices are often dried for later use. Flower buds are eaten as vegetables. The leaves are used for wrapping food.
Comments. Most Bananas are triploid cultivars or hybrids of M. acuminata and M. balbisiana. Sweet bananas, predominantly consumed raw, are usually referred to as dessert bananas, whereas starchy cultivars, which are used ripe or unripe for cooking, frying, and baking, are usually called plantains or cooking bananas.
The commercially most important banana cultivars for export are the M. acuminata cultivars ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ and ‘Gros Michel’. The largest producers of bananas are India, the Philippines, and China.
Bananas play an important part in human nutrition. They are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins B and C, and minerals, particularly potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Similar to the banana plant in appearance and belonging to the same family, the enset (Ensete ventricosum) is native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The plant does not produce edible fruits, but the starchy corms are used as food.
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