Discover 10 intriguing facts about bananas that might catch you by surprise.

Bananas are not only funny-looking and incredibly delicious, but they also offer numerous benefits. With a permaculture perspective, the banana serves far more than just 10 purposes. At places like Rancho Mastatal in Costa Rica, where we cultivate 13 diverse varieties of both edible and ornamental bananas within our agroforestry systems, the potential of bananas is vast. We continuously explore ways to harmonize with nature. And if you’re already familiar with the remarkable attributes of bananas, this blog delves into how they can serve as a perennial staple and a convenient farm-to-table crop.

Bananas can exhibit unexpected hues such as black, red, and blue!

In the Musa family, bananas come in a variety of shapes and colors, including red and blue, as well as differing lengths, widths, and contours. With over 300 varieties, the classic yellow banana commonly found in supermarkets is known as the Cavendish, named after a British individual who pioneered their cultivation in greenhouses in England. This innovation enabled even countries like Iceland to become major banana exporters. Many individuals who depart from Rancho Mastatal and relocate outside tropical regions often cease consuming bananas, as the ones available in supermarkets, typically grown in monocultures or greenhouses, are deemed inferior in taste and quality.

Bananas are not classified as trees, but rather as large herbs!

Bananas, despite their majestic appearance, don’t actually grow on trees since they lack a woody trunk or branches. Instead, what might seem like a trunk is actually a dense cluster of leaves, known as a leafstalk, poised to unfurl.

You can eat the flower.

Like many marvels of nature, it’s both visually stunning and delectable! Here at the Ranch, we’ve transformed it into a picadillo: finely chopped and sautéed with a touch of oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper sourced straight from the farm. The result is simply delicious, particularly for those who appreciate the texture of artichokes or mushrooms!

The “trunk” can be repurposed into weaving material.

By peeling the skin of the “trunk” vertically and drying the strips under the sun, you can obtain remarkably strong fiber material suitable for crafting baskets, mats, or belts. Banana fibers have the versatility to be woven into a silk-like fabric, commonly used for clothing and hats in Japan and Indochina. In Tahiti, the leaves and “trunk” of the fe’i variety are utilized as weaving material, transformed into thongs, lashings, and fans!

The trunk is edible.

If you’re involved in banana cultivation, you likely remove younger bananas from the cluster, retaining only three generations (grandmother, mother, and daughter) for growth. In Southeast Asia, they often consume the young “trunks” much like lettuce. These thinly sliced trunks are soaked in water and vinegar before being used as a fresh garnish in soups or transformed into a salad by adding herbs, fish sauce, and toasted peanuts.

Unripe bananas are a perennial dietary staple.

Green bananas can be utilized in cooking similar to potatoes. Simply boil them in water, including the whole fruit with its skin, and then prepare them according to your preference. Additionally, you can cut them into smaller pieces to incorporate into flavorful stews, blend them with herbs for frying into fritters, grate them to create a green banana hash, or slice them thinly and dehydrate to produce banana flour. We relish these inventive methods of incorporating a local staple into our diets.

Banana peel can alleviate itching.

The banana plant thrives in tropical, hot, and humid climates, often teeming with mosquitoes. Thankfully, banana skin can alleviate the itch caused by mosquito bites. I’ve tested it myself, and it proved effective!

Dirt or ash can aid in removing the sticky juice of the banana plant.

During banana harvesting, various juices are released, particularly when processing green bananas and flowers. To clean machetes, knives, or cutting boards, rubbing dirt or ash on them proves surprisingly effective. While it might sound unconventional, it’s a practical solution.

When harvesting, rub dirt onto the stem. During processing or cooking of green bananas, utilize banana leaves or paper to shield surfaces from juice. However, if juice gets on a knife or cutting board, rubbing them with dirt or ash before washing can be beneficial.

When bananas become overly ripe, you can transform them into wine or vinegar!

You can never have too many bananas, although you might end up with more than you can eat as a snack, which happens to us frequently. That’s when we utilize them to make homemade banana vinegar! When the bananas are super ripe, almost falling off the bunch and juicy-black, they contain loads of sugar. This presents an opportunity for yeast to thrive, as they feast on the sugars and produce alcohol! This practice aligns with the permaculture principle of producing no waste.

Rich in potassium, bananas are highly effective at reducing muscle spasms.

After spending a month on the Ranch, where the average daily banana consumption ranges from 3 to 5 bananas, many individuals discover that their muscle spasms have completely vanished. Bananas also contain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which help elevate mood.

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