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(Musa), a genus of perennial plants of the Musa-ceae family.
The banana is a tall, sometimes giant herb with a large rhizome and a short stalk. Its very large leaves are in sheaths that form a multilayered tube or false trunk. The young leaves and the inflorescence, which resembles an enormous brush, emerge through the false trunk. The flowers are unisexual and bisexual. The fruit is polyspermic, berry-shaped, and thick-skinned. In the cultivated forms the fruit is often seedless (the plants are propagated only vegetatively) and reaches a length of 15 cm and a diameter of 3–4 cm. As many as 300 fruit can develop on one axis; the total amount may weigh 50–60 kg. The aboveground portion of the banana dies after bearing fruit. There are 60–70 species of bananas in the tropics and subtropics of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
The banana is an ancient crop, and for tropical regions it is a most important food plant and a major export item. The most widely found cultivated bananas are the hybrid thermophilic species M. x paradisiaca and M. x sapientum (dessert varieties, or the so-called pisang) as well as the comparatively cold-resistant southern Chinese M. nana (M. cav-endishii). The fruit of the cultivated banana is 40 percent skin and 60 percent starchy, sweet pulp with undeveloped seeds. The pulp of a fresh banana contains 14–22 percent sugars, 5–8 percent starch, and up to 1.5 percent protein. The aroma of the banana depends upon the esters isovaleric-isoamyl and isoamyl acetate. The fruit is eaten fresh and dried, and it can be used to make banana flour, canned goods, jams, syrup, and wine. Some species of banana have fruit with a hard, starchy, sour pulp; they are used basically as livestock feed and are eaten by humans only when they have been fried or boiled. The textile or spinning banana (M. textilis) is grown as an industrial crop. A light, strong fiber called manila hemp (abaca) is obtained from the false trunks of this plant and used to make rope, fishing gear, and other goods. The Japanese banana (M. basjoo) is grown as a decorative plant in the USSR on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus and the Crimea. The Abyssinian banana (M. ensete) is grown as a food and fiber plant in Africa. This species is now more often put in the genus Ensete (E. ventricosum).
REFERENCESAlekseev, V. P. “Banan.” Biul. Vsesoiuznogo nauchno-issledovatel’skogo instituta chaia i subtropicheskikh kul’tur. 1955, no. 2.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia i ikh sorodichi, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1964.
What does it mean when you dream about a banana?
The banana has been seen as a sexual symbol, as in the jest, “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” But since the banana is the staple food for monkeys, the dreamer may need to get serious about some situation in which they are “monkeying around.”