How to Grow Bananas
There are two main varieties of bananas, the fruit or sweet banana and the plantain. The fruit banana is eaten raw out of hand when it turns yellow and develops a succulent sweetness with a soft, smooth, creamy, yet firm pulp. The plantain, a cooking banana, is also referred to as the meal, vegetable or horse banana. Plantains have a lower water content, making them drier and starchier than fruit bananas. Though the banana plant has the appearance of a sort of palm tree, and is often called a banana palm, it is actually considered a perennial herb. It dies back after each fruiting and produces new growth for the next generation of fruit. Modern bananas do not grow simply from seed. Man intervened long ago and crossed two varieties of African wild bananas, the Musa acuminata and the Musa baalbisiana. This got rid of the many seeds that were an unpleasant presence, and improved the flavor and texture from hard and unappetizing to its present soft and irresistibly sweet flavour.
Today bananas must be propagated from large rootstocks or rhizomes that are carefully transplanted in a suitable climate, namely the hot tropics, where the average temperature is a humid 27 degrees Celsius, and there is a minimum of 75 millimetres of rainfall a month. The soil must have excellent drainage or the rootstocks will rot. The plants grow new shoots, often called suckers, pups or ratoons, from the shallow rootstocks or rhizomes, and continue to produce new plants generation after generation for several decades. In about 9 months, the plants reach their mature height of about 15 – 30 feet. Some varieties will grow to a height of 40 feet.
Bananas possess a unique scientific phenomenon called “negative geotropism”. As the little bananas start to develop, they grow downward, as gravity would dictate. Little by little, several “hands” or double rows develop vertically and form a partial spiral around the stem. As they take in more and more sunlight, their natural growth hormones bring about a most puzzling phenomenon, and they begin to turn and grow upward. As the plant becomes heavier with maturing fruit, it must be held up with poles. The stems are made of layers and layers of leaves that are wrapped around each other. Though quite large and thick, the stems are not strong and woody like most fruit trees and can break under the weight of many bunches of bananas.
Though there are approximately 300 species of bananas, only 20 varieties are commercially cultivated. Bananas are mature about 3 months from the time of flowering, with each bunch producing about 15 “hands” or rows. Each hand has about 20 bananas, while each bunch will yield about 200 “fingers” or bananas. An average bunch of bananas can weigh between 35 – 50 kilograms. Two-man teams harvest the bananas. While one man whacks the bunch with his machete, the other catches the falling bunch onto his shoulders and transfers it to a hook attached to one of a series of conveyer cables that run throughout the plantation. Though bananas can be left to ripen on the plant, they would perish too quickly. It is important that they are harvested in the green state at just the right time. If harvested too early, they would develop a floury pulp instead of a delightfully sweet flavour.
Bananas begin the ripening process as soon as they are harvested, when laboratory tests have shown that they contain 20 per cent starch and 1 per cent sugar. When the bananas turn yellow with some brown spots, they are fully ripened, and these figures are completely reversed. The sugar content breaks down as follows: 60 per cent sucrose, 14 per cent fructose and 20 per cent glucose. After the bananas have been harvested, the giant stems are cut down to provide rich humus for the next crop that has already begun to sprout new shoots. Each plantation has a packing station where bananas are graded for quality. Those that are of a poor grade are used as animal feed. The next step is to cut the bananas into individual hands and wash them in a water bath to stop “bleeding”, a secretion of their natural latex or rubber substance that tends to stain the bananas as well as clothing.
Though there are many countries where bananas are grown, not all grow them for export. Brazil, China, India and Thailand grow them as a local food source and export very few. The major exporters include Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, the Philippines, Panama and Guatemala. Surprisingly, 80 per cent of the bananas grown throughout the world are of the cooking variety. To many tropical cultures, this 80 per cent is an important part of the daily diet and these bananas are prepared in as many ways as other cultures have devised for potatoes. Plantains may be more familiar to you as banana chips that are first dried, then fried. These cooking bananas are even employed in the brewing of beer in some areas of East Africa.
How to grow banana reading questions
In answer boxes 8-10, write:
YES if the statement agrees with the information
NO if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN there is no information on this in the reading passage
8 The banana plant dies after each time it bears fruit.
9 Only a small proportion of bananas is actually grown to be exported and eaten as fruit.
10 Bananas are used for medicinal purposes in South America.
How to grow banana reading answers
8 Y (paragraph A)It dies back after each fruiting and produces new growth for the next generation of fruit
9 Y (paragraph F)Though there are many countries where bananas are grown, not all grow them for export. Brazil, China, India and Thailand grow them as a local food source and export very few. The major exporters include Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, the Philippines, Panama and Guatemala. Surprisingly, 80 per cent of the bananas grown throughout the world are of the cooking variety
10 NG (paragraph F)