All edible bananas and plantains come from the genus Musa, a group of 70 species indigenous to Southeast Asia in a range that is bordered by India, Nepal, the Pacific and northern Australia.
There are almost 1,000 varieties of banana ranging wildly in taste, shape and color: savory, sweet, round, bent, straight, green, yellow, pink, silvery, spotted and striped. Bananas are high in potassium and pectin, a good source of fiber (1 banana has 10% of your daily fiber requirement) and they are rich in anti-oxidants.
The word banana derives from the Arabic word ‘banan’ meaning finger. Each plant produces one stem of bananas, holding up to 200 ‘fingers’ in the bunch. Despite their tendency to bruise, bananas have become a favorite fresh fruit of Americans and Europeans.
India is the world’s largest producer of bananas, followed by China, Philippines, Ecuador and Brazil – together, these five countries produce about half of the world’s bananas. Global production is valued at US$28 billion (2012 estimate), of which only 10% are exports of Cavendish bananas to richer nations for fresh consumption.