Bananas have been part of our diet for thousands of years and written references date back to around 500BC. Today they are the most popular fruit in the world, in fact, over 100 billion bananas are eaten around the world every year and around 51 per cent of these are eaten at breakfast time.
Some Horticulturists believe that bananas were the first fruit on earth. Their origin is placed in Southeast Asia, in the jungles of Malaysia, Indonesia or Philippines, where many varieties of wild bananas still grow today. Africans are credited to have given the present name, since the word banana would be derived from the Arab for ‘finger’. They started to be traded internationally by the end of the fourteenth century. The development of railroads and technological advances in refrigerated maritime transport subsequently enabled bananas to become the most traded fruit in the world.
Bananas are grown in more than 150 countries and 105 million tonnes of fruit are produced each year. Bananas which are grown for local consumption are generally grown in traditional, extensive systems. The Dessert banana, like the Cavendish variety are of huge economic importance many countries in the Global South and they account for 43 million tonnes and cooking bananas like Plantain account for 45 million tonnes. Locally consumed bananas are a staple food in many tropical countries and play a major role in terms of food security.
People often assume that the banana fruit grows on trees, however, the banana is a high herb which can grow up to 15 meters, and the banana itself is a berry! There are over 1000 different varieties of bananas growing around the world, some are sweet like the Cavendish (which is the most common). The Cavendish variety is the most widely exported. It is named after Musa Cavendishii and was first grown at Chatsworth House in the UK in 1830. This variety of banana is currently under threat from a disease called Sigatoka which has reduced banana yield by 40% every year.
A woman selling bananas in the Ugandan Capital, Kampala (https://echwaluphotography.wordpress.com/page/6/)