August 6, 2011

Bananas, the Most Useful Plant


I saw lots and lots of banana plants when I was living in Indonesia. There are two main groups of bananas. There are the bananas that we are all familiar with, and then there are green cooking bananas. Within the two groups, there are about 100 varieties.

It was a big day in Testega Village when a bunch of bananas was ready to be picked.  Friends and relatives of the "picker" would appear out of nowhere and there would be a banana frenzy.  Sometimes they would bring a hand of bananas to me hoping I would buy it.  I  always did. 

Nothing of the banana plant was ever wasted in Indonesia. Since it only produces one bunch of bananas, the plant would be cut down immediately after the fruit was picked.  Then the huge leaves would be used to weave into sleeping mats or a cape for protection during the rainy season.

Bananas were introduced to North America during  the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. They were wrapped in tin foil and sold for 10 cents each. They were a big hit!  In 1899, the United Fruit Company began importing bananas from tropical plantations using the new refrigerated ships.

You may be interested in reading my new article,  The Truth About Banana Trees--Or Are They Banana Plants?