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Bananas Cavendish

Musa paradisiaca


Bananas are one of the most popular snack foods out, and with good reason. Under that cheery yellow skin is sweet, creamy white flesh that’s perfect as it comes.

Being a tropical fruit, bananas don’t grow well in New Zealand so are imported, but they’re so popular and so good that What’s Fresh couldn’t leave them out. They grow on the tree in bunches, called ‘hands’, with each hand having about 15 ‘fingers’ (banan in Arabic).

The most common variety of banana is the Cavendish, the long, yellow, slightly curved one you typically see in supermarkets and grocery stores. Other varieties include the smaller, sweeter Lady’s Finger, which is also known as a sugar banana and often used in Asian cooking, and the plantain, a separate species of banana that’s used only for cooking and is often treated more like a vegetable.

Bananas are rich in potassium, which makes them an excellent snack for exercise as this electrolyte helps maintain normal blood pressure and fluid balance. They’re also low-GI and release energy slowly, another reason they’re good for sport. They’re also a good source of vitamins B6, C, fibre, and manganese. It’s also thought they have an antacid effect, protecting against ulcers and stomach damage.

Bananas are picked while still unripe and green, and as they’ll often be sold this way, choose them based on how you like them. They soften as they ripen, and have the most flavour when black spots start to appear on the skin, though some people might feel they’re past their best at this stage.



Bananas are believed to be native to Malaysia, originating about 4,000 years ago. From there they travelled to India, where Alexander the Great is believed to have tried them, later introducing them to the western world.

The ancient Egyptians also had their own culinary banana, but travellers found that sweeter ones could be found in tropical and subtropical regions. Originally they had large seeds, but through cultivation these were replaced with seedless fruit.

Americans first tasted banana in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition centenary celebrations for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when they were wrapped in foil and sold for 10c each. The Victorians took a great interest in exotic fruits and began cultivating bananas and other tropical produce in greenhouses; the popular Cavendish banana is named after William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who grew a banana specimen in one of his extensive conservatories.

By the 19th century most hot countries had a number of cultivated local varieties – most of these don’t exist anymore, having been replaced by more commercially viable cultivars.


Like most fruit, the banana is excellent for eating raw. It even comes in its own natural wrapping.

However, they also make delicious cakes and muffins. If you’re making pancakes and have run out of eggs, try substituting half a banana instead – it has similar binding properties to egg, and gives the pancakes extra sweetness. It’s also a great way of using up overripe bananas, but if you really have more ripe bananas than you can use, just pop them in the freezer. The skin will turn black, but the banana inside will be fine to use when mashed.

Sliced banana can also be added to curries.


Bananas grow well in Queensland, but due to disease and their importance as a crop, private growers are only allowed to grow Lady Fingers.

Bananas give off ethylene gas as they ripen, which ripens other fruits and vegetables. That’s why you can often put produce in a paper bag with a banana to ripen it – and why you’re warned to keep some fruits and veges away from your bananas!

You can use the inside of banana peel to polish leather shoes.

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