From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
Musa x paridasiaca
Origin and Distribution
Handling and Packing
Controlled Ripening and Storage
The word "banana" is a general term embracing a number of species or
hybrids in the genus Musa
of the family Musaceae. Some species such as M. Basjoo Sieb.
& Zucc. of Japan and M.
ornata Roxb., native from Pakistan to Burma, are grown
only as ornamental plants or for fiber. M. textilis Nee of
the Philippines is grown only for its fiber, prized for strong ropes
and also for tissue-thin tea bags. The so-called Abyssinian banana, Ensete ventricosum
Cheesman, formerly E.
edule Horan, Musa
ensete Gmel., is cultivated in Ethiopia
for fiber and for the staple foods derived from the young shoot, the
base of the stem, and the corm.
Most edible-fruited bananas, usually seedless, belong to the species M. acuminata Colla (M. cavendishii
Lamb. ex Paxt., M.
chinensis Sweet, M.
nana Auth. NOT
Lour., M. zebrina
Van Houtee ex Planch.), or to the hybrid M. X paradisiaca L. (M. X sapientum L.; M. acumianta X M. balbisiana
Colla of southern Asia and the East Indies, bears a seedy fruit but the
plant is valued for its disease-resistance and therefore plays an
important role as a "parent"; in the breeding of edible bananas.
Bertero ex Vieill. and M.
troglodytarum L. have been applied to the group of bananas
known as fehi or fe'i but taxonomists have yet to make final decisions
as to the applicability of these binomials.
To the American consumer "banana" seems a simple name for the yellow
fruits so abundantly marketed for consumption raw and "plantain" for
the larger, more angular fruits intended for cooking but also edible
raw when fully ripe. However, the distinction is not that clear and the
terms may even be reversed. The types we call "banana" are known by
similar or very different names in banana-growing areas.
Spanish-speaking people say banana china (Paraguay), banano enano
(Costa Rica), cambur or camburi (Colombia, Venezuela), cachaco,
colicero, cuatrofilos (Colombia); carapi (Paraguay), curro (Panama),
guineo (Costa Rico, Puerto Rico, E1 Salvador); murrapo (Colombia);
mampurro (Dominican Republic); patriota (Panama); platano (Mexico);
platano de seda (Peru); platano enano (Cuba); suspiro (Dominican
Republic); zambo (Honduras). Portuguese names in Brazil are: banana
maca, banana de Sao Tome', banana da Prata. In French islands or areas,
the terms may be bananier nain, bananier de Chine (Guadaloupe), figue,
figue banane, figue naine (Haiti). Where German is spoken, they say:
echte banane, feige, or feigenbaum. In the Sudan, baranda.
The types Americans call "plantain" Plate IV, may be known as banaan
(Surinam); banano macho (Panama); banane or bananier (Haiti,
Guadeloupe, Martinique); banane misquette or banane musquee, or pie
banane (Haiti); bananeira de terra (Brazil); banano indio (Costa Rica);
barbaro (Mexico); butuco (Honduras); parichao (Venezuela); plantain
(Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad); platano (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican
Republic); platano burro, platano hembra (Cuba); platano macho (Cuba,
Panama); platano de la isla (Peru); topocho or yapuru (Venezuela);
zapolote (Mexico). Numerous other vernacular names, according to
geographical region, are provided by N.W. Simmonds in his textbook,
In India, there is no distinction between bananas and plantains. All
cultivars are merely rated as to whether they are best for dessert or
The banana plant, often erroneously referred to as a "tree", is a large
herb, with succulent, very juicy stem (properly "pseudostem") which is
a cylinder of leaf-petiole sheaths, reaching a height of 20 to 25 ft
(6-7.5 m) and arising from a fleshy rhizome or corm. Suckers spring up
around the main plant forming a clump or "stool'', the eldest sucker
replacing the main plant when it fruits and dies, and this process of
succession continues indefinitely. Tender, smooth, oblong or elliptic,
fleshy-stalked leaves, numbering 4 or 5 to 15, are arranged spirally.
They unfurl, as the plant grows, at the rate of one per week in warm
weather, and extend upward and outward, becoming as much as 9 ft (2.75
m) long and 2 ft (60 cm) wide. They may be entirely green, green with
maroon splotches, or green on the upperside and red purple beneath. The
inflorescence, a transformed growing point, is a terminal spike
shooting out from the heart in the tip of the stem. At first, it is a
large, long-oval, tapering, purple-clad bud. As it opens, it is seen
that the slim, nectar-rich, tubular, toothed, white flowers are
clustered in whorled double rows along the floral stalk, each cluster
covered by a thick, waxy, hoodlike bract, purple outside, deep-red
within. Normally, the bract will lift from the first hand in 3 to 10
days. If the plant is weak, opening may not occur until 10 or 15 days.
Female flowers occupy the lower 5 to 15 rows; above them may be some
rows of hermaphrodite or neuter flowers; male flowers are borne in the
upper rows. In some types the inflorescence remains erect but
generally, shortly after opening, it begins to bend downward. In about
one day after the opening of the flower clusters, the male flowers and
their bracts are shed, leaving most of the upper stalk naked except at
the very tip where there usually remains an unopened bud containing the
last-formed of the male flowers. However, there are some mutants such
as 'Dwarf Cavendish' with persistent male flowers and bracts which
wither and remain, filling the space between the fruits and the
As the young fruits develop from the female flowers, they look like
slender green fingers. The bracts are soon shed and the fully grown
fruits in each cluster become a "hand" of bananas, and the stalk droops
with the weight until the bunch is upside down. The number of "hands"
varies with the species and variety.
The fruit (technically a "berry") turns from deep-green to yellow or
red, or, in some forms, green-and white-striped, and may range from 2
1/2 to 12 in (6.4-30 cm) in length and 3/4 to 2 in (1.9-5 cm) in width,
and from oblong, cylindrical and blunt to pronouncedly 3-angled,
somewhat curved and hornlike. The flesh, ivory-white to yellow or
salmon-yellow, may be firm, astringent, even gummy with latex, when
unripe, turning tender and slippery, or soft and mellow or rather dry
and mealy or starchy when ripe. The flavor may be mild and sweet or
subacid with a distinct apple tone. Wild types may be nearly filled
with black, hard, rounded or angled seeds 1/8 to 5/8 in (3-16 mm) wide
and have scant flesh. The common cultivated types are generally
seedless with just minute vestiges of ovules visible as brown specks in
the slightly hollow or faintly pithy center, especially when the fruit
is overripe. Occasionally, cross-pollination by wild types will result
in a number of seeds in a normally seedless variety such as 'Gros
Michel', but never in the Cavendish type.
Edible bananas originated in the Indo-Malaysian region reaching to
northern Australia. They were known only by hearsay in the
Mediterranean region in the 3rd Century B.C., and are believed to have
been first carried to Europe in the 10th Century A.D. Early in the 16th
Century, Portuguese mariners transported the plant from the West
African coast to South America. The types found in cultivation in the
Pacific have been traced to eastern Indonesia from where they spread to
the Marquesas and by stages to Hawaii.
Bananas and plantains are today grown in every humid tropical region
and constitute the 4th largest fruit crop of the world, following the
grape, citrus fruits and the apple. World production is estimated to be
28 million tons—65% from Latin America, 27 % from Southeast
Asia, and 7 % from Africa. One-fifth of the crop is exported to Europe,
Canada, the United States and Japan as fresh fruit. India is the
leading banana producer in Asia. The crop from 400,000 acres (161,878
ha) is entirely for domestic consumption. Indonesia produces over 2
million tons annually, the Philippines about 1/2 million tons,
exporting mostly to Japan. Taiwan raises over 1/2 million tons for
export. Tropical Africa (principally the Ivory Coast and Somalia) grows
nearly 9 million tons of bananas each year and exports large quantities
Brazil is the leading banana grower in South America—about 3
million tons per year, mostly locally consumed, while Colombia and
Ecuador are the leading exporters. Venezuela's crop in 1980 reached
983,000 tons. Large scale commercial production for export to North
America is concentrated in Honduras (where banana fields may cover 60
sq mi) and Panama, and, to a lesser extent, Costa Rica. In the West
Indies, the Windward Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe are the main
growers and for many years have regularly exported to Europe. Green
bananas are the basic food of the people of Western Samoa and large
quantities are exported.
In Ghana, the plantain is a staple food but up to the late 1960's the
crop was grown only in home gardens or as a shade for cacao. When the
cacao trees declined, solid plantings of plantain were established in
their place and in newly cleared forest land where the richness of
organic matter greatly promotes growth. By 1977, Ghana was harvesting
2,204,000 tons (2,000,000 MT) annually.
The plantain is the most important starchy food of Puerto Rico and is
third in monetary value among agricultural crops, being valued at
$30,000,000 annually. While improved methods of culture have been
adopted in recent years and production has been increased by 15% in
1980, it was still necessary to import 1,328 tons (1,207 MT) to meet
local demand. Annual per capita consumption is said to be 65 lbs (29.5
kg). In the past, most of the plantains in Puerto Rico were grown on
humid mountainsides. High prices have induced some farmers to develop
plantations on level irrigated land formerly devoted to sugarcane.
In tropical zones of Colombia, plantains are not only an important part
of the human diet but the fruits and the plants furnish indispensable
feed for domestic animals as well. The total plantain area is about
1,037,820 acres (420,000 ha) with a yield of 5,500 lbs per acre (5,500)
kg/ha). Mexico grows about 1/6 as much, 35% under irrigation, and the
crop is valued at $1,335 US per acre ($3,300 US/ha). Venezuela has
somewhat less of a crop 517,000 tons from 146,000 acres (59,000 ha) in
1980—and the Dominican Republic is fourth in order with about
114,600 acres (46,200 ha). Bananas and plantains are casually grown in
some home gardens in southern Florida. There are a few small commercial
plantations furnishing local markets.
Edible bananas are classified into several main groups and subgroups.
Simmonds placed first the diploid M. acuminata group 'Sucrier',
represented in Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines, southern India, East
Africa, Burma, Thailand, the West Indies, Colombia and Brazil. The
sheaths are dark-brown, the leaves yellowish and nearly free of wax.
The bunches are small and the fruits small, thin-skinned and sweet.
Cultivars of this group are more important in New Guinea than elsewhere.
8: Green plantains (left), 'Gros Michel' bananas(right) and 'Lady
Finger' (center). In: K. and J. Morton, Fifty Tropical Fruits of
Here belongs one of the smallest of the well-known bananas, the 'Lady
Finger', also known as'Date' or 'Fig', and, in Spanish, as 'Dedo de
Dama', 'Datil', 'Nino', Bocadillo', 'Manices', 'Guineo Blanco', or
'Cambur Titiaro'. The plant reaches 25 ft (7.5 m) in height, has a
slender trunk but a heavy root system that fortifies the plant against
strong winds. The outer sheaths have streaks or patches of reddish
brown. The bunch consists of 10 to 14 hands each of 12 to 20 fingers.
The fruit is 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) long, with thin, light-yellow skin
and sweet flesh. This cultivar is resistant to drought, Panama disease
and the black weevil but subject to Sigatoka (leaf spot). It is common
in Latin America and commercial in Queensland and New South Wales.
In second place, there is the group represented by the prominent and
widely cultivated 'Gros Michel' originally from Burma, Thailand,
Malaya, Indonesia and Ceylon. It was introduced into Martinique early
in the 19th Century by a French naval officer and, a few years later,
was taken to Jamaica; from there it was carried to Fiji, Nicaragua,
Hawaii and Australia, in that sequence. It is a large, tall plant
bearing long bunches of large, yellow fruits, and it was formerly the
leading commercial cultivar in Central Africa, Latin America and the
Caribbean, but has been phased out because of its great susceptibility
to Panama disease. It has given rise to several named sports or mutants.
Plate III: DWARF CAVENDISH BANANA, Musa
The Cavendish subgroup includes several
a) The 'Dwarf Cavendish', Plate III, first known from China and widely
cultivated, especially in the Canary Islands, East Africa and South
Africa. The plant is from 4 to 7 ft (1.2-2.1 m) tall, with broad leaves
on short petioles. It is hardy and wind resistant. The fruit is of
medium size, of good quality, but thin-skinned and must be handled and
shipped with care. This cultivar is easily recognized because the male
bracts and flowers are not shed.
b) The 'Giant Cavendish', also known as 'Mons Mari, 'Williams',
'Williams Hybrid', or 'Grand Naine', is of uncertain origin, closely
resembles the 'Gros Michel', and has replaced the 'Dwarf' in Colombia,
Australia, Martinique, in many Hawaiian plantations, and to some extent
in Ecuador. It is the commercial banana of Taiwan. The plant reaches 10
to 16 ft (2.7-4.9 m). The pseudostem is splashed with darkbrown, the
bunch is long and cylindrical, and the fruits are larger than those of
the 'Dwarf' and not as delicate. Male bracts and flowers are shed,
leaving a space between the fruits and the terminal bud.
c) 'Pisang masak hijau', or 'Bungulan', the triploid Cavendish clone of
the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaya, is erroneously called 'Lacatan'
in Jamaica where it replaced 'Gros Michel' because of its immunity to
Panama disease, though it is subject to Sigatoka (leaf spot). The plant
is tall and slender and prone to wind injury. Its fruits ripen unevenly
in winter, bruise easily and are inclined to spoil in storage. It is no
longer grown commercially in Jamaica and the Windward Islands. The
fruits are commonly used as cooking bananas in Jamaican households.
Simmonds declares this cultivar is not the true 'Lacatan' of the
Philippines. He suggested that 'Pisang masak hijau' may have been the
primary source of all the members of the Cavendish group.
d) 'Robusta', very similar to the so-called 'Lacatan', has largely
replaced that cultivar in Jamaica and the Windward Islands and the
'Gros Michel' in Central America because it is shorter, thick-stemmed,
less subject to wind. It is being grown commercially also in Brazil,
eastern Australia, Samoa and Fiji. It is resistant to Panama disease
but prone to Sigatoka.
e) 'Valery', also a triploid Cavendish clone, closely resembles
'Robusta' and some believe it may be the same. However, it is being
grown as a successor to 'Robusta'. It is already more widely cultivated
than 'Lacatan' for export. As compared with other clones in cooking
trials, it has low ratings because cooking hardens the flesh and gives
it a waxy texture.
'Radja' banana, introduced
into Florida by Dr. J.J. Ochse about 1957.
The Banana Breeding Research Scheme in Jamaica has developed a number
of tetraploid banana clones with superior disease-resistance and some
are equal in dessert quality to the so-called 'Lacatan' and 'Valery'.
'Bluggoe' (with many other local names) is a cooking banana especially
resistant to Panama disease and Sigatoka. It bears a few distinctly
separated hands of large, almost straight, starchy fruits, and is of
great importance in Burma, Thailand, southern India, East Africa, the
Philippines, Samoa, and Grenada.
'Ice Cream' banana of Hawaii ('Cenizo' of Central America and the West
Indies; 'Krie' of the Philippines), is a relative of 'Bluggoe'. The
plant grows to 10 or 15 ft (3-4.5 m), the leaf midrib is light pink,
the flower stalk may be several feet long, but the bunch has only 7 to
9 hands. The fruit is 7 to 9 in (17.5 22.8 cm) long, up to 2 1/2 in
(6.25 cm) thick, 4-to 5-angled, bluish with a silvery bloom when young,
pale yellow when ripe, The flesh is white, sweetish, and is eaten raw
'Mysore', also known as 'Fillbasket' and 'Poovan', is the most
important banana type of India, constituting 70% of the total crop. It
is sparingly grown in Malaya, Thailand, Ceylon and Burma. It is thought
to have been introduced into Dominice in 1900 but the only place where
it is of any importance in the New World is Trinidad where it is
cultivated as shade for cacao. The plant is large and vigorous, immune
to Panama disease and nearly so to Sigatoka; very hardy and drought
tolerant. It bears large, compact bunches of medium sized, plump, thin
skinned, attractive, bright yellow fruits of subacid flavor.
Other prominent commercial cultivars are 'Salembale' and 'Rasabale',
not suitable for canning because of starchy taste and weak flavor.
'Pachabale' and 'Chandrabale' are important local varieties preferred
for canning. K.C. Naik described 34 cultivars as the more important
among the many grown in South India.
'Silk', 'Silk Fig', or 'Apple' ('Manzana' in Spanish), is the most
popular dessert banana of the tropics. It is widely distributed around
the tropics and subtropics but never grown on a large scale. The plant
is 10 to 12 ft (3-3.6m) tall, only medium in vigor, very resistant to
Sigatoka but prone to Panama disease. There are only 6 to 12 hands in
the bunch, each with 16 to 18 fruits. The plump bananas are 4 to 6 in
(10-15 cm) long, slightly curved; astringent when unripe but pleasantly
subacid when fully ripe; and apple scented. If left on the bunch until
fully developed, the thin skin splits lengthwise and breaks at the stem
end causing the fruit to fall, but it is firm and keeps well on hand in
The 'Red', 'Red Spanish', 'Red Cuban', 'Colorado', or 'Lal Kela' banana
may have originated in India, where it is frequently grown, and it has
been introduced into all banana growing regions. The plant is large,
takes 18 months from planting to harvest. It is highly resistant to
disease. The pseudostem, petiole, midrib and fruit peel are all
purplish red, but the latter turns to orange yellow when the fruit is
fully ripe. The bunch is compact, may contain over 100 fruits of medium
size, with thick peel, and flesh of strong flavor. In the mutant called
'Green Red', the plant is variegated green and red, becomes 28 ft (8.5
m) tall with pseudostem to 18 in (45 cm) thick at the base. The bunch
bears 4 to 7 hands, the fruits are thick, 5 to 7 in (12.5 17.5 cm)
long. The purplish-red peel changes to orange-yellow and the flesh is
firm, cream-colored and of good quality.
The 'Fehi' or 'Fe'i' group, of Polynesia, is distinguished by the erect
bunches and the purplish-red or reddish-yellow sap of the plants which
has been used as ink and for dyeing. The plants may reach 36 ft (10.9
m) and the leaves are 20 to 30 in (50-75 cm) wide. The bunches have
about 6 hands of orange or copper-colored, thick skinned fruits which
are starchy, sometimes seedy, of good flavor when boiled or roasted.
These plants are often grown as ornamentals in Hawaii.
As a separate group, Simmonds places the 'I.C. 2', or 'Golden Beauty'
banana especially bred at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture
in Trinidad in 1928 by crossing the 'Gros Michel' with a wild Musa
acuminata. It is resistant to Panama disease and very resistant to
Sigatoka. Though the bunches are small and the fruits short, they ship
and ripen well and this cultivar is grown for export in Honduras and
has been planted in Hawaii, Samoa and Fiji.
'Orinoco', 'Horse', 'Hog', or 'Burro', banana, a medium tall, sturdy
plant, is particularly hardy. The bunch consists of only a few hands of
very thick, 3 angled fruits about 6 in (15 cm) long. The flesh has a
salmon tint, is firm, edible raw when fully ripe but much better cooked
fried, baked or otherwise, as are plantains.
Trials of 5 clones of 'Giant Cavendish' and 9 other cultivars ('Robusta
A', 'Robusta B', 'Cocos A', 'Cocos B', 'Golden Beauty', 'Enano Nautia',
'Enano Gigante', 'Enano' and 'Valery') were made between 1976 and 1979
at the Campo Agricola Experimental at Tecoman, Mexico. 'Enano Gigante'
is the most widely grown cultivar in that region but the tests showed
that 'Enano Nautia' and 'Golden Beauty' bore heavier bunches of better
quality fruit, even though 'Enano Gigante' had a greater number of
bunches and highest yield per ground area. 'Giant Cavendish' clones 1,
2, 3 and 4, and 'Cocos B' grew very tall, gave low yields and the fruit
was of poor quality.
Plate IV: PLANTAIN, Musa
Among the plantains, there are many forms, some with pink, red or
dark-brown leaf sheaths, some having also colored midribs or splotches
on leaves or fruits. The plants are usually large, vigorous and
resistant to Panama disease and Sigatoka but attacked by borers. Major
subgroups are known as 'French plantain' and 'Horn plantain', the
former with persistent male flowers. The usually large, angled fruits
are borne in few hands. All are important sources of food in southern
India, East Africa, tropical America and the West Indies. The tall
'Maricongo' and the 'Common Dwarf' are leading commercial cultivars. A
dwarf mutant is the 'Plantano enano of Puerto Rico ('banane cochon' of
Haiti). Ordinary plantains are called 'cuadrado', 'chato', and
'topocho' in Mexico. The leading commercial cultivars are 'Pelipita'
and 'Saba' which are resistant to Black Sigatoka but they do not have
the high culinary quality of 'Harton', 'Dominico-Harton', 'Currare',
and 'Horn'. 'Laknau' is a fertile plantain that resembles 'Horn' but is
of inferior quality. It has opened up possibilities for hybridizing and
is being crossed with 'Pelipita' and 'Saba'.
Banana and plantain cultivars most often grown in Florida are the
'Dwarf Cavendish', 'Apple', and 'Orinoco' bananas and the 'Macho'
plantain. The 'Red' and 'Lady Finger' bananas are very occasionally
grown in sheltered locations.
There are five major collections of banana and plantain clones in the
world. United Brands maintains a collection of 470 cultivars and 100
species at La Lima, Honduras.
The edible bananas are restricted to tropical or neartropical regions,
roughly the area between latitudes 30°N and 30°S.
Within this band, there are varied climates with different lengths of
dry season and different degrees and patterns of precipitation. A
suitable banana climate is a mean temperature of 80°F
(26.67°C) and mean rainfall of 4 in (10 cm) per month. There
should not be more than 3 months of dry season.
Cool weather and prolonged drought retard growth. Banana plants produce
only one leaf per month in winter, 4 per month in summer. If low
temperatures occur just at flowering time, the bud may not be able to
emerge from the stem. If fruits have already formed, maturity may be
delayed several months or completely suspended. If only the leaves are
destroyed, the fruits will be exposed to sunburn. Smudging, by burning
dry trash covered with green clippings to create smoke, can raise the
temperature 2 to 4 degrees. Flooding the field in advance of a cold
snap will keep the ground warm if the chill weather is brief. In
Australia, bananas are planted on sunny hill sides at elevations of 200
to 1,000 ft (60 to 300 m) to avoid the cold air that settles at lower
levels. Brief frosts kill the plants to the ground but do not destroy
the corm. 'Dwarf Cavendish' and the 'Red' banana are particularly
sensitive to cold, whereas the dwarf cultivar 'Walha', or 'Kullen', of
India is successful up to 4,000 ft (1,220 m) in the outer range of the
Western Ghats. 'Vella vazhai' is extensively cultivated in the Lower
Pulneys between 3,200 and 5,500 ft (975 and 1,616 m). A cooking banana,
'Plankel', survives winters in home gardens in northern India. In South
Africa, the main banana-producing area is along the southeast coast at
3,000 ft (915 m) above sea level with summer rainfall of 35 to 45 in
(90-115 cm). The major part of the crop in East Africa is grown between
4,000 and 5,000 ft (1,220 and 1,524 m) and the total range extends from
sea-level to 7,500 ft (2,286 m).
is detrimental to banana plants. Light winds shred the leaves,
interfering with metabolism; stronger winds may twist and distort the
crown. Winds to 30 mph break the petioles; winds to 40 mph will topple
a pseudostem that is supporting the weight of a heavy bunch unless the
stem is propped, and may cause root damage in non fruiting plants that
are not blown down; winds of 60 mph or over will uproot entire
plantations, especially when the soil is saturated by rain. Windbreaks
are often planted around banana fields to provide some protection from
cold and wind. Cyclones and hurricanes are devastating and the latter
were the main reason for the shift of large scale banana production
from the West Indies to Central America, Colombia and Ecuador. Hail
results from powerful convection currents in the tropics, especially in
the spring, and does much damage to bananas.
The banana plant will grow and fruit under very poor conditions but
will not flourish and be economically productive without deep,
well-drained soil—loam, rocky sand, marl, red laterite,
volcanic ash, sandy clay, even heavy clay—but not fine sand
which holds water. Over head irrigation is said to improve the tilth of
heavy clay and has made possible the use of clay soils that would never
have been considered for banana culture in the past. Alluvial soils of
river valleys are ideal for banana growing. Bananas prefer an acid soil
but if the pH is below 5.0 lime should be applied the second year. Low
pH makes bananas more susceptible to Panama disease. Where waterlogging
is likely, bananas and plantains are grown on raised beds. Low,
perennially wet soils require draining and dry soils require irrigation.
Banana seeds are employed for propagation only in breeding programs.
Corms are customarily used for planting and Mexican studies with 'Giant
Cavendish' have shown that those over 17.5 lbs (8 kg) in weight come
into bearing early and, in the first year, the bunches are longer,
heavier, with more hands than those produced from smaller corms. From
the second year on, the advantage disappears. Most growers prefer
"bits" 2- to 4-lb (0.9-1.8 kg) sections of the corm. When corms are
scarce, smaller sections—1 to 2 lbs (454-908 g) have been
utilized and early fertilization applied to compensate for the smaller
size. But in Queensland it is specified that "bits" of 'Dwarf
Cavendish' shall not be less than 4 x 3 x 3 in (10 x 7.5 x 7.5 cm) and
"bits" of 'Lady Finger' and other tall cultivars shall be not less than
5 x 5 x 3 1/2 in ( 12.5 x 12.5 x 9 cm). The corm has a number of buds,
or "eyes", which develop into new shoots. The two upper buds are the
youngest and have a pinkish tint. These develop rapidly and become
vigorous plants. To obtain the "bits", a selected, healthy banana
plant, at least 7 months old but prior to fruiting, is uprooted and cut
off about 4 to 5 in (10-12.5 cm) above the corm. The outer layer of
leaf bases is peeled off to expose the buds, leaving just a little to
protect the buds during handling and transport. The corm is split
between the 2 upper buds and trimmed with square sides, removing the
lower, inferior buds and any parts affected by pests or disease,
usually indicated by discoloration. Then the "bits" are fumigated by
immersing for 20 minutes in hot water at about 130°F
(54.44°C) or in a commercial nematicide solution. Sometimes it
is advisable to apply a fungicide to prevent spoilage. They should then
be placed in a sanitary place (away from all diseased trash) in the
shade for 48 hrs before planting.
Inasmuch as "bits" are not often
available in quantity, the second
choice is transplantation of suckers. These should not be too young nor
The sucker first emerges as a conical shoot which opens and releases
leaves that are mostly midribs with only vestiges of blade. These
juvenile leaves are called "sword", "spear", or "arrow", leaves. Just
before the sucker produces wide leaves resembling those of the mature
plant but smaller, it has sufficient corm development to be
transplanted. Sometimes suckers from old, deteriorating corms have
broad leaves from the outset. These are called "water" suckers, are
insubstantial, with very little vigor, and are not desirable
propagating material. "Maiden" suckers that have passed the
"sword"-leaved stage and have developed broad leaves must be large to
be acceptably productive. In banana trials at West Bengal, India,
suckers 3 to 4 months old with well-developed rhizomes proved to be the
best yielders. In comparison, small, medium, or large "sword" suckers
develop thicker stems, and give much higher yields of marketable fruits
per land parcel. "Bits' grow slowly at first, but in 2 years' time they
catch up to plants grown from suckers or "butts" and are much more
economical. "Butts" (entire corms, or rhizomes, of mature plants),
called "bull heads" in the Windward Islands, are best used to fill in
vacancies in a plantation. For quick production, some farmers will use
"butts" with several "sword" suckers attached. Very young suckers,
called "peepers", are utilized only for establishing nurseries.
Instead of waiting for normal sucker development, multiplication has
been artificially stimulated in the field by removing the soil and
outer leaf sheaths covering the upper buds of the corm, packing soil
around them and harvesting them when they have reached the "sword'
sucker stage. A greenhouse technique involves cleaning and injuring a
corm to induce callus formation from which many new plants will
develop. As many as 180 plantlets have been derived from one corm in
Diseases are often spread by vegetative propagation of bananas, and
this fact has stimulated efforts to create disease-free planting
material on a large scale by means of tissue culture. Some commercial
banana cultivars have been cultured in Hawaii. A million 'Giant
Cavendish' banana plants were produced by meristem culture in Taiwan in
1983. In the field, these laboratory plantlets showed 95% survival,
grew faster than suckers in the first 5 months, had bigger stems and
more healthy leaves.
Rapid multiplication of 'Philippine Lacatan' and 'Grand Naine' bananas,
and the Sigatoka-resistant 'Saba' and 'Pelipita' plantains by shoot-tip
culture has been achieved by workers at State University of New York.
On level land where the soil is compact, deep ploughing is needed to
improve aeration and water filtration, whereas on a sloping terrain
minimum tillage is advised as well as contouring of rows to minimize
erosion. Planting is best done at the end of the dry season and
beginning of the wet season for adequate initial moisture and to avoid
waterlogging of the young plants. Puerto Rico, because of its favorable
climate, is able to make monthly plantings of plantains the year around
in order to produce a continuous supply for processing factories.
However, some consideration has been given to manipulation of planting
dates to avoid a summer surplus (June-September) caused by March and
May plantings and to take advantage of higher prices in winter and
spring (February to April). To achieve this, it is suggested that
plantings be made only in the first or second weeks of January, July,
September, November and December. Generally, the banana requires 10 to
12 months from planting to harvest. Summer plantings of plantains in
Puerto Rico take 14 to 16 months; winter plantings 17 to 19. In regions
where there may be periods of low temperatures in winter, planting time
is chosen to allow flowering and fruiting before predictable cold
Spacing varies with the ultimate size of the cultivar, the fertility of
the soil, and other factors. Close planting protects plantations
exposed to high winds, but results in fewer suckers, hinders disease
control, and has been found to be profitable for only the first year.
In subsequent years, fruits are shorter, the flesh is softer and
bunches ripen prematurely. The standard practice in Puerto Rico is 500
plants of 'Maricongo' plantain per acre (1,235 plants/ha). Increasing
to 800 plants/acre (1,976/ha) has increased yield by 4 tons, but
elevating density to 1,300 plants/acre (3,212 plants/ha) has not shown
any further increase. In Surinam, most of the plantains are grown at a
density of 809 to 1,012 plants per acre (2,000-2,500/ha), but density
may range from 243 to 1,780 plants per acre (600-4,400/ha).
The higher the number of plants in the field, the larger the volume of
fertilizer that must be applied. The crop suffers severely from root
competition, for the roots of a fully grown banana plant may extend
outward 18 ft (5.5 m). The higher the altitude, the lower the density
must be because solar radiation is reduced. Too much space between
plants allows excessive evaporation from uncovered soil and increases
the weed problem. Growers must determine the most economical balance
between sufficient light for good yields and efficient land managemeet.
Spacing distances for 'Dwarf Cavendish' range from 10 x 6 ft (3 x 1.8
m) to 15 x 12 ft (4.5 x 3.6 m). A spacing of 12 ft (3.6 m) between rows
and 8 ft (2.4 m) between plants allows 450 plants per acre (1,112
plants/ha). Studies conducted with the so called 'Lacatan' ('Pisang
masak hijau') over a 3-year period in Jamaica, demonstrated the optimum
density to be 680 plants per acre (2,680/ha). At closer spacings, yield
increased but profits declined. Hexagonal spacing gives the maximum
number of plants per area. Double- and triple-row plantings provide
alleys for mechanical operations and harvesting.
Planting holes should be at least 18 in (45 cm) wide and 15 in (38 cm)
deep, but may be as much as 3 ft (0.91 m) wide and 2 ft (0.6 m) deep
for extra wind resistance. They should be enriched in advance of
planting. On hillsides, suckers are set with the cut surface facing
downhill; the bud or "eye" of a "bit" must point uphill; so that the
"follower" sucker will emerge on the uphill side where the soil is
deepest. A surface cover of about 4 in (10 cm) of soil is trampled down
Weed control is essential. Geese have been installed as weeders because
they do not eat the banana plants. However, they consume mostly grass
and fail to eliminate certain broad-leaved weeds which still require
cleaning out. Certain herbicides, including Diuron and Ametryne, have
been approved for banana fields. They are applied immediately after
planting but great care must be taken to minimize adverse effects on
the crop. Ametryne has been shown to be relatively safe for the plants
and it has a short life in the soil. The most persistent weed is Cyperus rotundus L.
(nutgrass, yellow nutgrass, purple nutsedge, coqui or coyolillo) which
decreases yields and competes with the crop for nitrogen.
In some plantations, a mulch of dry banana leaves is maintained to
discourage weeds. Some growers resort to live groundcovers such as Glycine javanica L.
(Rhodesian kodzu), Commelina
spp., or Zebrina pendula
Schnizl. or other creepers, but these tend to climb the banana stems
and become a nuisance. Sometimes short-term crops are interplanted in
young banana fields, for example, maize, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes,
okra, sweetpotato, pineapple or upland rice. A space of at least 3 ft
(0.91 m) must be kept clear around each banana plant. However, there
are banana authorities who are opposed to interplanting.
Bananas and plantains are heavy feeders. It has been calculated that a
harvest of 5 tons of fruit from an acre leaves the soil depleted by 22
lbs (10 kg) nitrogen, 4 lbs (1.8 kg) phosphorus, 55 lbs (25 kg) potash
and 11 oz (312 kg) calcium. In general, it can be said that banana
plants have high nitrogen and phosphorus requirements and a fertilizer
formula of 8:10:8 NPK is usually suitable and normally 1 to 1 1/2
tons/acre (1 1 1/2 MT/ha) may be adequate. One-third of the fertilizer
is worked into each planting site when most of the plants appear above
ground, one third in a circle about 1 ft (30 cm) out from each plant 2
months later, and one-third at double the distance 2 months after that.
Supplementary feedings will depend on signs of deficiencies (often
determined by leaf analyses) as the plantation develops. Fertilization
needs vary with the soil. In Puerto Rico, most plantains are grown on
humid Oxisols and Ultisols in the interior. These soils are well
drained but relatively infertile and highly acid, the pH being about
4.8. On such soils, potassium uptake may be too high and N and Mg
deficiencies occur. But experts have shown that these soils respond to
good fertilization practices and can be very productive. As an example,
224 lbs N per acre (224 kg/ha) applied in circular bands 1.5 ft (0.46
m) from the base of the pseudostem gives a significantly higher yield
than broadcast N, and there is good response to Mg applied at time of
planting and again 7 months later.
In the humid mountain regions of Puerto Rico, 250 to 325 lbs N per acre
(250 325 kg/ha), 125 to 163 lbs phosphorus per acre (125 163 kg/ha),
and 500 to 650 lbs potassium per acre (500 650 kg/ha) are recommended
for plantains. On lowland sandy clay, phosphorus and magnesium
applications appear ineffective. Applications of N at the rate of 168
to 282 lbs/acre (168-282 kg/ha) increase size and number of fruits
harvested, but higher rates of N decrease yield because of the number
of plants that bend over halfway or are stunted or fail to flower.
Applications of 1,121 1bs N per acre (1,121 kg/ha) reduce production by
46%. Potassium at the rate of 405 to 420 lbs/acre (405 420 kg/ha) has
the effect of increasing weight and number of fruits. However, there
appear to be factors, possibly soil magnesium and calcium, which
inhibit the uptake of potassium. One study showed that it took one year
for heavy applications of K to reach down to a depth of 8 in (20 cm)
where most of the roots were found in a banana plantation on clay loam.
One benefit of added potassium is that it makes bananas more buoyant.
In cool, dry seasons in Honduras, the fruit tissue is abnormally dense
and there is a high rate of "sinkers" when hands are floated through a
washing tank. Such fruits have been found deficient in potassium and
increased potassium in the fertilizer has reduced the problem.
Irrigation by costly overhead sprinkler systems is standard practice in
large scale banana culture in Central America. Without such equipment,
irrigation basins may be necessary throughout the field and they should
be able to hold at least 3 in (7.5 cm) of water. During the first 2
months, the plants should be irrigated every 7 to 10 days; older plants
need irrigation only every 3 to 4 weeks in dry seasons. On heavy soils,
too frequent irrigations decrease yields. For maximum root development,
the water table must be between 14 and 19 in (36 48 cm) below ground
To preserve the original density, the plants are pruned; that is, only
the most deep seated sucker and one or more of its offshoots
("peepers") are permitted to exist beside each parent plant to serve as
replacements and maintain a steady succession. All other suckers are
killed to prevent competition with the pseudostem and its "followers",
and a bunch of fruits will be ready for harvest every 6 to 8 months.
Various methods of de-suckering have been employed: 1) wrenching by
hand; 2) cutting at soil level with a banana knife; 3) cutting at soil
level and filling the base with kerosene; 4) cutting at soil level and
killing the under ground terminal bud by thrusting in and twisting a
As the older leaves wither and droop, they must be removed because they
interfere with spraying, they shade the suckers, cause blemishes on the
fruits, harbor disease, insects and other creatures, and constitute a
Bearing bananas require propping. This has been done with simple wooden
or bamboo poles, forked poles, or two stakes fastened together to form
an "X" at the top, a system much less harmful to the pseudostem. Or the
plant may be tied back to pickets driven into the ground, to prevent
falling with the weight of the bunch.
Fig. 10: Immature banana bunch ("stem") in protective plastic cover;
Hacienda Secadal, Ecuador.
Various types of covering—dry banana leaves, canvas, drill
cloth, sisal sacks, or burlap or so-called "Hessian' bags (made of
jute), have been put over banana bunches intended for export,
especially to enhance fruit development in winter and avoid blemishes.
In 1955, Queensland led the trend toward adoption of tubular poly
vinylchloride (PVC), then the cheaper blue polyethylene covers after
trials produced record bunches. At first, the transparent covering
caused sunburn on the first two hands and it was found necessary to
protect these with newspaper before pulling on the plastic sleeve. The
use of plastic covers became standard practice not only in Australia
but in Africa, India and the American tropics. In 1963, Queensland
growers were turning to covers made of High Wet Strength
(formaldehyde-treated) kraft paper which was already in use for garbage
bags. These bags were easily stapled at the top, prevented sunburn,
resisted adverse weather, and were reusable for at least another
season. Some growers still prefer the burlap. It is cautioned that the
cover should not be put on until the bracts have lifted from the fruits
(about 21 days after "shooting") so that the young fingers will be firm
enough to resist the friction of the cover.
If bunches are composed of more than 7 hands, debudding, or
"de-belling" that is, removal of the terminal male bud (which keeps on
extending and growing) will result in somewhat fuller bananas, thus
increasing bunch weight. The cut should be made several inches below
the last hand so that the rotting tip of the severed stalk will not
affect the fruits.
Banana bunches are harvested with a curved knife when the fruits are
fully developed, that is, 75% mature, the angles are becoming less
prominent and the fruits on the upper hands are changing to light
green; and the flower remnants (styles) are easily rubbed off the tips.
Generally, this stage is reached 75 to 80 days after the opening of the
first hand. Cutters must leave attached to the bunch about 6 to 9 in
(15-18 cm) of stalk to serve as a handle for carrying. With tall
cultivars, the pseudostem must be slashed partway through to cause it
to bend and harvesters pull on the leaves to bring the bunch within
reach. They must work in pairs to hold and remove the bunch without
damaging it. In the early 1960's a "banana bender" was invented in
Queensland—an 8-ft pole with a steel rod mounted at the top
and shaped with a downward pointing upper hook and an upward-pointing
lower hook, the first to pull the pseudostem down after nicking and the
second to support the bent pseudostem so that the bunch can be cut at a
height of about 4 1/2 ft ( 1.35 m).
Fig. 11: Mature, newly harvested, banana bunches at Hacienda Secadal,
Formerly, entire bunches were transported to shipping points and
exported with considerable loss from inevitable damage. Improved
handling methods have greatly reduced bunch injuries. In modern
plantations, the bunches are first rested on the padded shoulder of a
harvester and then are hung on special racks or on cables operated by
pulleys by means of which they can be easily conveyed to roads and by
vehicle to nearby packing sheds. Where fields have been located in
remote areas lacking adequate highways, transport out has been
accomplished by hovercraft flying along riverbeds. In Costa Rica, when
rains have prevented truck transport to railway terminals, bananas have
been successfully carried in slings suspended from helicopters.
Exposure to even moderate light after harvest initiates the ripening
process. Therefore the fruits should be protected from light as much as
possible until they reach the packing shed.
In India, studies have been made to determine the most feasible
disposition of a plant from which a bunch has been harvested. It is
normal for it to die and it may be left standing for 3 to 4 months to
dehydrate before removal, or the top half may be removed right after
harest by means of a tool called a "mattock" (a combined axe and hoe);
or the pseudostem may be cut at ground level, split open, and the
tender core taken away for culinary purposes. Results indicated that
the first two practices have equal effect on production, but the
complete felling and removal of the pseudostem lowered the yield of the
"follower" significantly. In Jamaica and elsewhere it is considered
best to chop and spread as organic matter the felled pseudostem and
other plant residue. This returns to the soil 404 lbs N, 101 lbs P and
1, 513 lbs K from an acre of bananas (404 kg, 101 kg and 1,513 kg,
respectively, from a hectare). The stump should be covered with
hard-packed soil to discourage entrance of pests.
Banana plantations, if managed manually, may survive for 25 years or
far longer. The commercial life of a banana "stool" is about 5 or 6
years. From the 4th year on, productivity declines and the field
becomes too irregular for mechanical operations. Sanitary regulations
require that the old plantings be eradicated. In the past, this has
been done by digging out the plants with the mattock, or bringing in
cattle to graze on them. In recent years, the old plants and the
suckers that arise from the old corms are injected with herbicide until
all are thoroughly killed and the field is then cleared. Where bananas
or plantains are raised on cleared forest land without sophisticated
maintenance practices, they become thoroughly infested with nematodes
by the end of the third year and the regrowth of underbrush has begun
to take over the field, so it is simply abandoned.
It is clear that many factors determine the annual yield from a banana
or plantain plantation: soil and agronomic practices, the cultivar
planted, spacing, the type of propagating material and the management
of sucker succession. The 'Gros Michel' banana has yielded 3 to 7 tons
per acre (3 to 7 MT/ha) in Central America. A 'Giant Cavendish' bunch
may weigh 110 lbs (50 kg) and have a total of 363 marketable fruits. A
well-filled bunch of "Dwarf Cavendish' will have no more than 150 to
200 fruits. Sword suckers of plantains have yielded 54,984 fruits per
acre (135,866 fruits /ha); water suckers, 49,021 fruits per acre
With heavy fertilization, the 'Maricongo' plantain in Puerto Rico,
planted at the rate of 725 per acre has produced 21,950 fruits per acre
(54,238 fruits/ha); at the rate of 1,450 per acre has produced 39,080
fruits per acre (96,369 fruits/ha); in a single year.
In 1981, investigators of the earnings of plantain producers in Puerto
Rico found that traditional farmers had costs of $1,568.00 per acre
($3,874.59/ha); gross income of $2,436.90 per acre ($6,021.58/ha); and
net profit of $868.88 per acre ($2,146.99/ha). Those farmers who had
adopted improved techniques for preparing the field, weeding and
control of pests and diseases had a cost of $2,132.14 per acre
($5,268.52/ha); gross income of $4,253.26 per acre ($10,509.81/ha); and
net profit of $2,121.12 per acre ($5,241.29/ha).
'Maricongo' plantains spaced at 5 x 5 ft (1.5 x 1.5 m), 1,742
plants/acre (4,303 plants/ha), have produced 33.4 tons per acre (73.5
tons/ha) over a period of 30 months.
Banana bunches were formerly padded with leaf trash which absorbed much
of the sap and latex from the harvesting operation and the sites of
broken off styles, each of which can leak at least 6 drops, especially
if bunches are cut early in the morning. In the 1960's, when whole
bunches were being exported from the Windward Islands and Jamaica to
England, they were wrapped in wadding (paperbacked layers of paper
tissue) to absorb the latex, and then encased in plastic sleeves for
shipment. Nowadays plastic sleeves left on the bunches help protect
them during transport from the field to distant packing sheds and a
cushion of banana trash on the floor and against the sides of the truck
does much to reduce injury. But the plastic bags increase the problem
of staining by the sap/latex which mingles with the condensation inside
the bag, becomes more fluid, runs down the inside and stains the peel.
When hands are cut off, additional sap/latex mixture oozes from the
severed crown. Banana growers and handlers know that this substance
oxidizes and makes an indelible dark-brown stain on clothing. It
similarly blemishes the fruits. At packing stations, the hands are
floated through water tanks to wash it off. (Sodium hydrochlorate is an
effective solvent.) Some people maintain that the fruit should remain
in the tank for 30 minutes until all oozing of latex ceases. At certain
times of the year, up to 5% of the hands may sink to the bottom of the
tank, become superficially scarred and no longer exportable. As
mentioned earlier, increased potassium in fertilizer mixtures renders
the bananas more buoyant and fewer hands sink. In rainy seasons, it may
be necessary to apply fungicide on the cut crown surface to avoid
rotting, though experiments have shown that some fungicides give an
off-flavor to the fruit.
Boxing was experimented with in the late 1920's but abandoned because
of various types of spoilage. Modern means of combatting the organisms
that cause such problems, as well as better systems of handling and
transport, quality control, and good container design, have made carton
packing not only feasible but necessary. First, the hands are graded
for size and quality and then packed in layers in special ventilated
cartons with plastic padding to minimize bruising.
In the past, bananas for export from Fiji to New Zealand were detached
individually from the hands and packed tightly in 72-lb (33 kg) wooden
boxes, with much bruising of the upper layer and of the fruits in
contact with the sides. Reduction of fruit quality was found to offset
the economic advantage of filling all the shipping space with fruits.
Wooden boxes were abandoned and suppliers were converted to the packing
of hands with cushioning material.
Ripening and Storage
At times, markets may not be able to absorb all the bananas or
plantains ready for harvest. Experiments have been conducted to
determine the effect of applying gibberellin, either by spraying or in
the form of a lanolin paste, on the stalk just above the first hands,
or by injection of a solution, powder or tablet into the stalk. In
Israel, gibberellin A4A7, applied by any of these methods about 2
months before time of normal ripening, had the effect of delaying
ripening from 10 to 19 days. If applied too early, the gibberellin
treatment has no effect.
Harvested bananas allowed to ripen naturally at room temperature do not
become as sweet and flavorful as those ripened artificially. Post
harvest ripening is expedited undesirably if bunches or hands are
stored in unventilated polyethylene bags. As a substitute for expensive
controlled-temperature storage rooms, researchers in Thailand have
found that hands treated with fungicide can be stored or shipped over a
period of 4 weeks in polyethylene bags if ethylene absorbing
vermiculite blocks (treated with a fresh solution of potassium
permanganate) are included in the sack. The permanganate solution will
be ineffective if exposed to light and oxygen. The blocks must be
encased in small polyethylene bags perforated only on one side to avoid
staining the fruits.
Bananas are generally ripened in storage rooms with 90 to 95% relative
humidity at the outset, later reduced to 85% by ventilation: and at
temperatures ranging from 58° to 75°F
(14.4°-23.9°C), with 2 to 3 exposures to ethylene gas
at 1: 1000, or 6 hourly applications for 1 to 4 days, depending on the
speed of ripening desired. The fruit must be kept cool at 56°
60°F (13.3°-15.6°C) and 80 to 85% relative
humidity after removal from storage and during delivery to markets to
avoid rapid spoilage. Post-ripening storage at 70°F
(21°C) in air containing 10 to 100 ppm ethylene accelerates
softening but the fruits will remain clear yellow and attractive with
few or no superficial brown specks.
Plantains for processing in the ripe stage or marketing fresh must be
stored under conditions that will provide the best quality of finished
product. Puerto Rican studies have shown that uniform ripening is
achieved in 4 to 5 days by storage at 56° to 72°F
(13.3°-22.2°C), 95 to 100% relative humidity, and with
a single exposure to ethylene gas. The initial 4% starch content is
reduced to 1 to 1.74% and sugars increase by about 2%. The ripe fruit
can be held another 6 days at 56°F (13.3°C) and still
be acceptable for processing.
The manufacture of products from the green, still starchy, plantain is
a major industry in Puerto Rico. If held at room temperature, the
fruits begin to ripen 7 days after harvest and become fully ripe at the
end of 2 more days. Chemically disinfected fruits stored in
polyethylene bags with an ethylene absorbent (Purefil wrapped in porous
paper) keep 25 days at room temperature of 85°F
(29.44°C), and for 55 days under refrigeration at 55°F
(12.78°C). Products of such fruits have been found to be as
good as or better than those made from freshly harvested green
The potential benefits of waxing have been considered by various
investigators. While it is true that waxing of pre-disinfected fruits
prolongs storage life by 60% at room temperature,
78°-92°F (25.56°-33.33°C), and by 28%
at 52° to 55°F (11.11°-12.78°C), there
is no advantage in waxing if the fruits can be held in gas storage, a
combination of waxing and gassing being no better than gassing alone.
In fact, waxing may result in uneven ripening after storage.
In the mid 1960's, fumigation by ethylene dibromide (EDB) against fruit
fly infestation was authorized to permit export of Hawaiian bananas to
the mainland USA. The treatment accelerated ripening and it could not
be applied to 'Dwarf Cavendish' without covering the bunch with opaque
or semi-opaque material for at least 2 months prior to harvest. EDB is
no longer approved for use on food products for marketing within the
Wherever bananas and plantains are grown, nematodes are a major
problem. In Queensland, bananas are attacked by various nematodes that
cause rotting of the corms: spiral nematodes—Scutellonema brachyurum,
multicinctus and H.
nannus; banana root-lesion nematode, Pratylenchus coffaea,
syn. P. musicola;
and the burrowing nematode, Radopholus
similis less than 1 mm long, which enters roots and corms,
causing red, purple and reddish-black discoloration and providing entry
for the fungus Fusarium
oxysporum. And also prevalent is the root-knot
Plantains in Puerto Rico are attacked by 22 species of nematodes. The
most injurious is the burrowing nematode and it is the cause of the
common black headtoppling disease on land where plantains have been
cultivated for a long time. Wherever coffee has been grown, Pratylenchus coffaea
is the principal nematode, and where plantains have been installed on
former sugar cane land, Meliodogyne
incognita is dominant. These last two are among the three
most troublesome nematodes of Surinam, the third being Helicotylenchus
spp., especially H.
Nematicides, properly applied, will protect the crop. Otherwise, the
soil must be cleared, plowed and exposed to the sun for a time before
planting. Sun destroys nematodes at least in the upper several inches
of earth. Some fields may be left fallow for as long as 3 years.
Rotating plantains with Pangola grass (Digitaria decumbens)
controls most of the most important species of nematodes except Pratylenchus coffaea.
All planting material must be disinfected—corms, or parts of
corms, or the bases of suckers. There are various means of
accomplishing this. In Hawaii, corms are immersed in water at
122°F (50°C) for 15 minutes and soaked for 5 minutes in
1% sodium hypochlorite. In Puerto Rico, nematodes are combatted by
immersing plantain corms in a solution of Nemagon for 5 minutes about
24 hours before planting and, when planting, mixing the soil in the
hole with granular Dasanit (Fensulfothion) and every 6 months applying
Dasanit in a ring around the pseudostem.
In Queensland, corms are immersed in hot water-131°F
(55°C)—for 20 minutes or solutions of nonvolatile
Nemacur or Mocap. Hot water and Nemacur are equally effective but hot
water has less adverse effects on plant vigor. The Australians believe
that nematicidal treatment of corms must be preceded by peeling off 3/8
in (1 cm) of the outer layer (usually discolored) even though this
diminishes the vigor of the planting material. However, tests with
'Maricongo' plantain corms in Puerto Rico indicate that immersing for
10 minutes in aqueous solutions of Carbofuran, Dasanit, Ethoprop, or
Phenamiphos without the time consuming and possibly detrimental peeling
reduces the initial nematode populations by about 95 % and all the
nematicides except Carbofuran give adequate post-planting control.
Carbofuran apparently does not penetrate deeply enough. The Florida
spiral nematode is the most damaging nematode in Brazil and Florida,
especially during hot, rainy summers. Ethoprop is the only nematicide
registered for use on bananas in Florida but it is not effective
against this pest. The hot water treatment must be employed.
The black weevil, Cosmopolites
sordidus, also called banana stalk borer, banana weevil
borer, or corm weevil, is the second most destructive pest of bananas
and plantains. It attacks the base of the pseudostem and tunnels
upward. A jelly like sap oozes from the point of entry. It was formerly
controlled by Aldrin, which is now banned. In Surinam it has been
combatted by injecting pesticide into the pseudostem, or spraying the
pseudostem with Monocrotophos. In Ghana, they dip planting material in
a solution of Monocrotophos and apply dust of Dieldrin or Heptachlor
around the base of the pseudostem. Puerto Rican tests of several
pesticides have shown that Aldicarb 10G, a nematicide insecticide,
applied at the base of plantain plants at the rate of 1 to 1 1/2 oz
(30-45 g) every 4 months, or 1 oz (30 g) every 6 months, controls both
the burrowing nematode and the black weevil. Biological control of
black weevil utilizing a weevil predator, Piaesius javanus, has not
The banana rust thrips, Chaetanophothrips
orchidii; syn. C.
signipennis, stains the peel, causes it to split and
expose the flesh which quickly discolors. The pest is usually partially
controlled by the spraying of Dieldrin around the base of the
pseudostem to combat the banana weevil borer, because it pupates in the
soil. Another measure has been to treat the inside of polyethylene
bunch covers with insecticidal dust, especially Diazinon, before
slipping them over the bunches. It is recognized that this procedure
constitutes a health hazard to the workers. A great improvement is the
introduction of polyethylene bags impregnated with 1% of the
insecticide Dursban, eliminating the need for dusting. Bunches enclosed
in these bags have been found 85.% free of attack by the banana rust
thrips. The bags retain their potency for at least a year in storage.
Impregnated with 1 to 2% Dursban, they are equal to Diazinon in
preventing banana injury by the banana fruit scarring beetle, Colaspis hypochlora,
also called coquito. This pest invades the bunches when the fruits are
very young. It has been very troublesome in Venezuela, and at times
from Guyana to Mexico. The banana scab moth, Nacoleia octasema,
the inflorescence from emergence to the time half the bracts have
lifted. It is a major pest in North Queensland, Malaysia and the
southwest Pacific. Control may be by injection or dusting with
pesticide, sometimes with lifting or removal of bracts. Corky scab of
bananas in southern Queensland is caused by the banana flowers thrips,
especially in hot, dry weather. The infestation is
lessened by removal of the terminal male bud which tends to harbor the
Among minor enemies in Queensland is the banana spider mite, Tetranychus lambi
which moves from beneath the leaves to the fruits in warm weather and
creates dull brown specks which may become so numerous as to completely
cover the peel, causing it to dehydrate and crack irregularly. The
leaves of the plant will wilt. Bi-weekly sprayings of pesticide get rid
of the mites.
The banana silvering thrips, Hercinothrips
bicintus, causes silvery patches on the peel and dots them
with shiny black specks of excrement. The rind-chewing caterpillar, Barnardiella sciaphila,
usually does little damage. Two species of fruit fly—Strumeta tryoni and
—occasionally attack bananas in North Queensland.
The subject of diseases is authoritatively presented by C.W. Wardlaw in
the second edition of his textbook, Banana Diseases, including
plantains and abaca, 1972; 878 pages.
It is appropriate here only to mention the main details of those
maladies which are of the greatest concern to banana and plantain
growers. Sigatoka, or leaf spot, caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella musicola
(of which the conidial stage is Cercospora
musae) was first reported in
Java in 1902, next in Fiji in 1913 where it was named after the
Sigatoka Valley. It appeared in Queensland 10 years later, and in
another 10 years made its appearance in the West Indies and soon spread
throughout tropical America. The disease was noticed in East and West
Tropical Africa in 1939 and 1940. It was discovered in Ghana in 1954
and ravaged a state farm in 1965. It is most prevalent on shallow,
poorly drained soil and in areas where there is heavy dew. The first
signs on the leaves are small, pale spots which enlarge to 1/2 in (1.25
cm), become dark purplish black and have gray centers. When the entire
plant is affected, it appears as though burned, the bunches will be of
poor quality and will not mature uniformly. The fruits will be acid,
the plant roots small. Control is achieved by spraying with orchard
mineral oil, usuall every 3 weeks, a total of 12 applications of 1 1/2
gals per acre (14.84 liters/ha); or by systemic fungicides applied to
the soil or by aerial spraying.
A much more virulent malady, Black Sigatoka, or Black Leaf Streak,
caused by Mycosphaerella
fifiensis var. difformis,
attacked bananas in Honduras in 1969 and spread to banana plantations
in Guatemala and Belize. It appeared in plantations in Honduras in 1972
where there had not been any need to spray against ordinary Sigatoka.
It made headway rapidly through plantain fields in Central America to
Mexico and about 10 years later was found in the Uruba region of
Colombia. The disease struck Fiji in 1963 and became an epidemic. It
began spreading in 1973, largely replacing ordinar Sigatoka. Surveys
have revealed this previously unrecognized disease on several other
South Pacific islands, in Hawaii, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.
It is spread mostly by wind; kills the leaves and exposes the bunches
to the sun. Cultivars which are resistant to Sigatoka have shown no
resistance to Black Sigatoka. There are vigorous efforts to control the
disease by fungicides or intense oil spraying. But it is not completely
controlled even by spraying every 10 to 12 days a total of 40
sprayings. The cost of control with fungicides is 3 to 4 times that of
controlling ordinary Sigatoka because of the need for more frequent
aerial sprayings. It is very difficult to treat properly on islands
where bananas are grown mostly in scattered plantings. In Mexico where
plantains are extremely important in the diet, and 65% of the
production is on non-irrigated land, control efforts have elevated
costs of plantain production by 145 to 168%. In the Sula Valley of
Honduras, Black Sigatoka has caused annual losses of 3,000,000 boxes of
bananas. The great need is for resistant cultivars of high quality.
Panama Disease or Banana Wilt, which arises from infection by the
oxysporum f. sp. cubense
originates in the soil, travels to the secondary roots, enters the corm
only through fresh injuries, passes into the pseudostem; then,
beginning with the oldest leaves, turns them yellow first at the base,
secondly along the margins, and lastly in the center. The interior
leaves turn bronze and droop. The pseudostem turns brown inside. This
plague has seriously affected banana production in Central America,
Colombia and the Canary Islands. It started spreading in southern
Taiwan in 1967 and has become the leading local banana disease. The
'Cavendish' types have been considered highly resistant but they
succumb if planted on land previously occupied by 'Gros Michel'. The
disease is transmitted by soil, moving agricultural vehicles or other
machinery, flowing water, or by wind. It is combatted by flooding the
field for 6 months. Or, if it is not too serious, by planting a cover
crop. There are reportedly two races: Race #1 affects 'Gros Michel',
'Manzano', 'Sugar' and 'Lady Finger'; Race #2 attacks 'Bluggoe'.
Resistant cultivars are the Jamaican 'Lacatan', 'Monte Cristo', and
'Datil'or'Nino'. Resistant plantains are 'Maricongo', 'Enano' end
Moko Disease, or Moko de Guineo, or Marchites bacteriana,
is caused by
the bacterium, Pseudomonas
solanacearum, resulting in internal decay. It has become
one of the chief diseases of banana and plantain in the western
hemisphere and has seriously reduced production in the leading areas of
Colombia. It attacks Heliconia species as well. It is transmitted by
insects, machetes and other tools, plant residues, soil, and root
contact with the roots of sick plants. There are said to be 4 different
types transmitted by different means. Efforts at control include
covering the male bud with plastic to prevent insects from visiting its
mucilaginous excretion; debudding, disinfecting of cutting tools with
formaldehyde in water 1: 3; disinfection of planting material; disposal
of infected fruits and plant parts; injection of herbicide into
infected plants to hasten dehydration, and also seemingly healthy
neighboring plants. If the organism is variant SFR, all adjacent plants
within a radius of 16.5 ft (5 m) must be destroyed and the area not
replanted for 10 to 12 months, for this variant persists in the soil
that long. If it is variant B, the plants within 32.8 ft (10 m) must be
injected and the area not replanted for 18 months. In either case, the
soil must be kept clear of broad leaved weeds that may serve as hosts.
In Colombia, there are 12 species of weeds that serve as hosts or
"carriers" but only 4 of these are themselves susceptible to the
disease. Crop rotation is sometimes resorted to. The only sure defense
is to plant resistant cultivars, such as the 'Pelipita' plantain.
Black-end arises from infection by the fungus Gloeosporium musarum,
of which Glomerella
cingulata is the perfect form. It causes anthracnose on
the plant and attacks the stalk and stalk-end of the fruits forming
dark, sunken lesions on the peel, soon penetrating the flesh and
developing dark, watery, soft areas. In severe cases, the entire skin
turns black and the flesh rots. Very young fruits shrivel and mummify.
This fungus is often responsible for the rotting of bananas in storage.
Immersing the green fruits in hot water, 131°F (55°C)
for 2 minutes before ripening greatly reduces spoilage.
Cigar-tip rot, or Cigar-end disease, Stachylidium (
begins in the flowers and extends to the tips
of the fruits and turns them dark, the peel darkens, the flesh becomes
fibrous. One remedy is to cut off withered flowers as soon as the
fruits are formed and apply copper fungicides to the cut surfaces.
In Surinam, cucumber mosaic virus attacks plantains especially when
cucumber is interplanted in the fields. Also, Chinese cabbage, Cayenne
pepper and "bitter greens" (Cestrum
latifolium Lam.) are hosts for the disease.
Cordana leaf spot (Cordana
musae), causes oval lesions 3 in (7.5 cm) or more in
length, brown with a bright-yellow border. There is progressive dying
of the leaves beginning with the oldest, as in Sigatoka, with
consequent undersized fruits ripening prematurely. It formerly occurred
mainly in sheltered, humid regions of Queensland. Now it is seen mostly
as an invader of areas affected by Sigatoka, in various geographical
Bunchy top, an aphid-transmitted virus disease of banana, was unknown
in Queensland until about 1913 when it was accidentally introduced in
suckers brought in from abroad. In the next 10 years it spread swiftly
and threatened to wipe out the banana industry. Drastic measures were
taken to destroy affected plants and to protect uninvaded plantations.
The disease was found in Western Samoa in 1955 and it eliminated the
susceptible 'Dwarf Cavendish' from commercial plantings. A vigorous
eradication and quarantine program was undertaken in 1956 and carried
on to 1960. Thereafter, strict inspection and control measures
continued. Other crops were provided to farmers in heavily infested
areas. Leaves formed after infection are narrow, short, with upturned
margins and become stiff and brittle; the leafstalks are short and
unbending and remain erect, giving a "rosetted" appearance. The leaves
of suckers and the 3 youngest leaves of the mother plant show yellowing
and waviness of margins, and the youngest leaves will have very narrow,
dark-green, usually interrupted ("dot-and dash") lines on the underside.
Because of the seriousness of Panama disease and Bunchy Top in southern
Queensland, the prospective banana planter must obtain a permit from
the Queensland Department of Primary Industries. In the Southern
Quarantine Area, any plant showing Bunchy Top, as well as its suckers
and all plants within a 15 ft (4.6 m) radius must be killed by
injecting herbicide or must be dug out completely and cut into pieces
no bigger than 2 in (5 cm) wide. In restricted areas, only the immune
'Lady Finger' may be grown. In the Northern Quarantine Area, no plants
may be brought in from another area and all plants within a radius of
120 ft (36.5 m) from a diseased plant must be eradicated.
Swelling and splitting of the corm and the base of the pseudostem is
caused by saline irrigation water and by overfertilization during
periods of drought which builds up soluble salts in the soil.
The ripe banana is utilized in a multitude of ways in the human
diet—from simply being peeled and eaten out of-hand to being
sliced and served in fruit cups and salads, sandwiches, custards and
gelatins; being mashed and incorporated into ice cream, bread, muffins,
and cream pies. Ripe bananas are often sliced lengthwise, baked or
broiled, and served (perhaps with a garnish of brown sugar or chopped
peanuts) as an accompaniment for ham or other meats. Ripe bananas may
be thinly sliced and cooked with lemon juice and sugar to make jam or
sauce, stirring frequently during 20 or 30 minutes until the mixture
jells. Whole, peeled bananas can be spiced by adding them to a mixture
of vinegar, sugar, cloves and cinnamon which has boiled long enough to
become thick, and then letting them cook for 2 minutes.
In the islands of the South Pacific, unpeeled or peeled, unripe bananas
are baked whole on hot stones, or the peeled fruit may be grated or
sliced, wrapped, with or without the addition of coconut cream, in
banana leaves, and baked in ovens. Ripe bananas are mashed, mixed with
coconut cream, scented with Citrus leaves, and served as a thick,
Banana puree is important as infant food and can be successfully canned
by the addition of ascorbic acid to prevent discoloration. The puree is
produced on a commercial scale in factories close to banana fields and
packed in plastic-lined #10 cans and 55-gallon metal drums for use in
baby foods, cake, pie, ice cream, cheesecake, doughnuts, milk shakes
and many other products. It is also used for canning half-and-half with
applesauce, and is combined with peanut butter as a spread. Banana
nectar is prepared from banana puree in which a cellulose gum
stabilizer is added. It is homogenized, pasteurized and canned, with or
without enrichment with ascorbic acid.
Sliced ripe bananas, canned in sirup, were introduced to the food trade
for commercial use in frozen tarts, pies, gelatins and other products.
In 1966, the United Fruit Company built a processing plant at La Lima,
Honduras, for producing canned and frozen banana puree and canned
banana slices. Because of seasonal gluts and perishability and the
tonnages of bananas and plantains that are not suitable for marketing
or export because of overripeness or stained peel or other defects,
there is tremendous interest in the development of modes of processing
and preserving these fruits.
In Polynesia, there is a traditional method of preserving large
quantities of bananas for years as emergency fare in case of famine. A
pit is dug in the ground and lined with banana and Heliconza leaves.
The peeled bananas are wrapped in Heliconza leaves, arranged in layer
after layer, then banana leaves are placed on top and soil and rocks
heaped over all. The pits remain unopened until the fermented food,
called "masi", is needed.
In Costa Rica, ripe bananas from an entire bunch are peeled and boiled
slowly for hours to make a thick sirup which is called "honey".
Green bananas, boiled in the skin, are very popular in Cuba, Puerto
Rico and other Caribbean islands. In Puerto Rico, the cooked bananas
are recooked briefly in a marinating sauce containing black pepper,
vinegar, garlic, onions, bay leaves, olive oil and salt and left
standing at room temperature for 24 hours before being eaten. Peeled,
sliced green bananas are quick-frozen in Puerto Rico for later cooking.
If steam treated to facilitate peeling, the enzymes are inactivated
only on the surface of the flesh and the interior, when exposed, will
turn brown unless sulfited. It is more satisfactory to immerse the
whole bananas in water at 200°F (93°C) for 30 minutes
which wholly inactivates the enzymes. No sulfite is then needed and no
Much research has been conducted by food technologists at the
University of Puerto Rico to determine the best procedures for canning
sliced green bananas and plantains to make them readily available for
cooking. Enzyme inactivation is necessary and the hot water treatment
facilitates the peeling. If peeled raw, green bananas and plantains
exude gummy white latex which stains materials. When canning, citric
acid in a 2% brine is added, but this method of preservation has not
yet met with success because of rapid detinning of the inside of the
cans. The problem is not solved by using enamellined cans because the
fruit darkens quickly after the cans are opened. Glass jars may prove
to be the only suitable containers.
Through experimental work with a view to freezing peeled, blanched,
sliced green bananas, it has been found that, with a pulp-to-peel ratio
of less than 1:3 the fruits turn gray on exposure to air after
processing and this discoloration is believed to be caused by the high
iron content (4.28 p/m) of the surface layer of the flesh and its
reaction to the tannin normally present in green bananas and plantains.
At pulp to peel ratio of 1:0, the tannin level in green bananas is
241.4 mg; at l:3, 151.0 mg, and at 1:5, 112.6 mg, per 100 g. Therefore,
it is recommended that for freezing green bananas be harvested at a
stage of maturity evidenced by 1:5 pulp-to-peel ratio. Such fruits have
a slightly yellowish flesh, higher carotene content, and are free of
off-flavors. The slices are cooked by the consumer without thawing.
Completely green plantains are 50% flesh and 50% peel. Plantains for
freezing should have a pulp content of at least 60% for maximum quality
in the ultimate food product, but a range of 55 to 65% is considered
Ripe plantains, held until the skin has turned mostly or wholly black,
are commonly peeled, sliced diagonally and fried in olive oil,
accompany the main meal daily in the majority of homes in tropical
Latin America. In the Dominican Republic, a main dish is made of
boiled, mashed ripe plantains mixed with beaten eggs, flour, butter,
milk and cloves, and layered in a casserole with ground beef fried with
Picalilli and raisins, lastly topped with grated cheese and baked until
golden brown. In Guatemala, boiled plantains are usually served with
Green plantains are popular sliced crosswise, fried until partially
cooked, pressed into a thickness of 1/2 in (1.25 cm), and fried in deep
fat till crisp. The product is called 'tostones" and somewhat resembles
French-fried potatoes. Puerto Rican "mofongo" is a ball of fried green
plantain mashed with fried pork rind, seasoned with thickened stock,
garlic and other condiments. It must be eaten hot before it hardens.
"Mofongo" has been successfully frozen in boilable pouches. Slices of
nearly ripe plantain (5% starch content) are cooked in sirup and frozen
in boilable pouches. Puerto Rican plantains, shipped green to Florida,
have been ripened, peeled, quartered, infused with orange juice, frozen
and provided to schools for serving as luncheon dessert.
In Ghana, plantains are consumed at 5 different stages of ripeness.
Fully ripe plantains are often deep fried or cooked in various dishes.
A Ghanian pancake called "fatale" is made of nearly full ripe plantains
and fermented whole meal dough of maize, seasoned with onions, ginger,
pepper and salt, and fried in palm oil. "Kaklo" is the same mix but
thicker and rolled into balls which are deep-fried. Because home
preparation is laborious, a commercial dehydrated mix has been
developed. In Ghana, green plantains are boiled and eaten in stew or
mashed, together with boiled cassava, into a popular plastic product
called "fufu" which is eaten with soup. Because of the great surplus of
plantains in summer, technologists have developed methods for drying
and storing of strips and cubes of plantain for house use in making
"fufu" out of season. The cubes can also be ground into plantain flour.
Use of infrared, microwave, and extrusion systems has resulted in
high-quality finished products. Processing has the added advantage of
keeping the peels at factories where they may be converted into useful
by-products instead of their adding to the bulk of household garbage.
Banana or plantain flour, or powder, is made domestically by sun-drying
slices of unripe fruits and pulverizing. Commercially, it is produced
by spray-drying, or drum-drying, the mashed fruits. The flour can be
mixed 50-50 with wheat flour for making cupcakes. Two popular Puerto
Rican foods are "pasteles" and "alcapurias"; both are pastry stuffed
with meat; the first is wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled; the
latter is fried. The pastry is made of plantain flour or a mixture of
plantain with cassava (Manihot
esculenta Crantz. ) or cocoyam (tanier), Xanthosoma spp. The
plantain cultivars 'Saba', 'Tundoc' and 'Latundan' are very suitable
for making flour.
Commercial production and marketing of fried green plantain and banana
chips has been increasing in various parts of the world over the past
25 years and these products are commonly found in retail groceries
alongside potato chips and other snack foods. 'Carinosa' and 'Bungulan'
bananas are favored for chip-making. In Puerto Rico, the plantain
cultivars 'Guayamero Alto' and 'Congo Enano' are chosen for this
Dried bananas, or so-called "banana figs" are peeled firm-ripe bananas
split lengthwise, sulphured, and ovendried to a moisture content of 18
to 20%. Wrapped individually in plastic and then packed by the dozen in
polyethylene bags, and encased in cartons, they can be stored for a
year at room temperature—75.2° to 86°F
(24°-30°C) and they are commonly exported. The product
can be eaten as a snack or minced and used together with candied lemon
peel in fruit cake and other bakery products. In India the 'Dwarf
Cavendish' is preferred for drying; in the Philippines, the true
'Lacatan' or the 'Higo'.
Canadian researchers have developed a system of osmotic dehydration for
sliced firm ripe bananas and plantains, especially designed for
developing countries with plentiful sugar for the solutions required.
Since the early 1960's, Brazil has produced dehydrated banana flakes
for local markets and export to the USA and elsewhere in vacuum sealed
cans. The flakes are used on cereal, in baked goods, canapes, meat loaf
and curries, desserts, sauces, and other products. In Israel, banana
flakes have been made by steam blanching 'Dwarf Cavendish' bananas and
drum drying to 2.6% moisture. The flakes, packed in vacuum sealed cans,
keep for a year at 75.2° to 86°F (24°
30°C). At temperatures to 95°F (35°C), the
flakes darken somewhat and tend to stick together. Israel has also
introduced a formula for high-protein flakes made of 70% banana and 30%
soybean protein and this development has been adopted in Brazil. The
flakes are used by Brazilian food manufacturers in ice cream, and as
fillings for cakes and other bakery products. South Africa has produced
flakes of 2/3 banana and 1/3 maize meal.
In Africa, ripe bananas are made into beer and wine. The Tropical
Products Institute in London has established a simple procedure for
preparing an acceptable vinegar from fermented banana rejects.
The terminal male bud of the wild banana, M. balbisiana, is
marketed in Southeast Asia. It is often boiled whole after soaking an
hour in salt water, or with several changes of water to reduce
astringency, and eaten as a vegetable. The male bud of cultivated
bananas is considered too astringent but it is, nevertheless, sometimes
similarly consumed. The flowers may be removed from the bud and
prepared separately. They are used in curries in Malaya and eaten with
palm oil in West Tropical Africa.
The new shoots of young plants may be cooked as greens. Banana
pseudostem core constitutes about 10 to 15% of the whole and contains
1% starch, 0.68% crude fiber and 1% total ash. It is often cooked and
eaten as a vegetable in India and is canned with potatoes and tomatoes
in a curry sauce. Circular slices about 1/2 in (1.25 cm) thick are
treated with citric acid and potassium metabisulphite and candied.
In India, a solution of the ash from burned leaves and pseudostems is
used as salt in seasoning vegetable curries. The ash contains roughly
(per 100 g): potassium, 255 mg; magnesium, 27 mg; phosphorus, 33 mg;
calcium, 6.6 mg; sodium, 51 mg.
Dried green plantains, ground fine and roasted, have been used as a
substitute for coffee.
Reject ripe bananas, supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals,
are commonly fed to swine. Green bananas are also used for fattening
hogs but, because of the dryness and astringency and bitter taste due
to the tannin content, these animals do not care for them unless they
are cooked, which makes the feeding costs too high for most growers.
Therefore, dehydrated green banana meal has been developed and, though
not equal to grain, can constitute up to 75% of the normal hog diet,
40% of the diet of gestating sows. It is not recommended for lactating
sows, nor are ripe bananas, even with a 40% protein supplement.
Beef cattle are very fond of green bananas whether they are whole,
chopped or sliced. Because of the fruit's deficiency in protein, urea
is added at the rate of 8.8 lbs (4 kg) per ton, with a little molasses
mixed in to mask the flavor. But transportation is expensive unless the
cattle ranch is located near the banana fields. A minor disadvantage is
that the bananas are somewhat laxative and the cattle need to be washed
down daily. With dairy cattle, it is recommended that bananas
constitute no more than 20% of the feed.
In the Philippines, it has been found that meal made from dehydrated
reject bananas can form 14% of total broiler rations without adverse
effects. Meal made from green and ripe plantain peels has been
experimentally fed to chicks in Nigeria. A flour from unpeeled
plantains, developed for human consumption, was fed to chicks in a
mixture of 2/3 flour and 1/3 commercial chickfeed and the birds were
maintained until they reached the size of fryers. They were found
thinner and lighter than those on 100% chickfeed and the gizzard lining
peeled in shreds. It was assumed that these effects were the result of
protein deficiency in the plantains, but they were more likely the
result of the tannin content of the flour which interferes with the
utilization of protein.
Leaves, pseudostems, fruit stalks and peels, after chopping,
fermentation, and drying, yield a meal somewhat more nutritious than
alfalfa presscake. This waste material has been considered for use as
organic fertilizer in Somalia. In Malaya, pigs fed the pseudostems are
less prone to liver and kidney parasites than those on other diets.
Banana peel contains beta sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol,
cycloeucalenol, cycloartanol, and 24-methylene cycloartanol. The major
constituents are 24-methylene cycloartanol palmitate and an
unidentified triterpene ketone.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
*Derived from various analyses made in Cuba, Central America and Africa.
Banana leaves are widely used as plates and for lining cooking pits and
for wrapping food for cooking or storage. A section of leaf often
serves as an eye-shade. In Latin America, it is a common practice
during rains to hold a banana leaf by the petiole, upside-down, over
one's back as an "umbrella" or "raincoat". The leaves of the 'Fehi'
banana are used for thatching, packing, and cigarette wrappers. The
pseudostems have been fastened together as rafts.
Fig. 12 Banana pseudostem pad on inspection-turntable, Hacienda
Split lengthwise, they serve as padding on banana inspection turntables
and as cushioning to protect the bunches ("stems") during transport in
railway cars and trucks. Seat pads for benches are made of strips of
dried banana pseudostems in Ecuador. In West Africa, fiber from the
pseudostem is valued for fishing lines. In the Philippines, it is woven
into a thin, transparent fabric called "agna" which is the principal
material in some regions for women's blouses and men's shirts. It is
also used for making handkerchiefs. In Ceylon, it is fashioned into
soles for inexpensive shoes and used for floor coverings.
Plantain fiber is said to be superior to that from bananas. In the
mid-19th Century, there was quite an active banana fiber industry in
Jamaica. Improved processes have made it possible to utilize banana
fiber for many purposes such as rope, table mats and handbags. In
Kerala, India, a kraft type paper of good strength has been made from
crushed, washed and dried banana pseudostems which yield 48 to 51% of
unbleached pulp. A good quality paper is made by combining banana fiber
with that of the betel nut husk (Areca catechu L.). But Australian
investigators hold that the yield of banana fiber is too low for
extraction to be economical. Only 1 to 4 oz (28-113 g) can be obtained
from 40 to 80 lbs (18-36 kg) of green pseudostems; 132 tons of green
pseudostems would yield only 1 ton of paper. Their conclusion is that
the pseudostem has much greater value as organic matter chopped and
left in the field.
Dried banana peel, because of its 30 to 40% tannin content, is used to
blacken leather. The ash from the dried peel of bananas and plantains
is rich in potash and used for making soap. That of the burned peel of
unripe fruits of certain varieties is used for dyeing.
In the Philippines, the Pinatubo Negritos cut off a banana plant close
to the ground, make a hollow in the top of the stump, which then fills
with watery sap drunk as an emergency thirst quencher. Central
Americans obtain the sap of the red banana in the same manner and take
it as an aphrodisiac.
All parts of the banana plant have medicinal
applications: the flowers in bronchitis and dysentery and on ulcers;
cooked flowers are given to diabetics; the astringent plant sap in
cases of hysteria, epilepsy, leprosy, fevers, hemorrhages, acute
dysentery and diarrhea, and it is applied on hemorrhoids, insect and
other stings and bites; young leaves are placed as poultices on burns
and other skin afflictions; the astringent ashes of the unripe peel and
of the leaves are taken in dysentery and diarrhea and used for treating
malignant ulcers; the roots are administered in digestive disorders,
dysentery and other ailments; banana seed mucilage is given in cases of
catarrh and diarrhea in India.
Antifungal and antibiotic principles are found in the peel and pulp of
fully ripe bananas. The antibiotic acts against Mycobacteria. A
fungicide in the peel and pulp of green fruits is active against a
fungus disease of tomato plants. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and
serotonin are also present in the ripe peel and pulp. The first two
elevate blood pressure; serotonin inhibits gastric secretion and
stimulates the smooth muscle of the intestines.
Alleged hallucinogenic effects of the smoke of burning banana peel have
been investigated scientifically and have not been confirmed.
The banana plant because of its continuous reproduction is regarded by
Hindus as a symbol of fertility and prosperity, and the leaves and
fruits are deposited on doorsteps of houses where marriages are taking
place. A banana plant is often installed in the corner of a rice field
as a protective charm. Malay women bathe with a decoction of banana
leaves for 15 days after childbirth. Early Hawaiians used a young plant
as a truce flag in wars.