Friday, November 26, 2010

The Unfortunate Sex Life of the Banana

I was watching the Discovery Channel lately and I found out some interesting facts about bananas, which I would like to share with you guys in my own words, as I have nothing better to do. So this is what I learnt from that program. The humble banana almost seems like a miracle of nature. Colourful, nutritious, and much cherished by children, monkeys and clowns, it has a favoured position in the planet’s fruit bowls. The banana is vitally important in many regions of the tropics, where different parts of the plant are used for clothing, paper and tableware, and where the fruit itself is an essential dietary staple. People across the globe appreciate the soft, nourishing flesh, the snack-sized portions, and the easy-peel covering that conveniently changes colour to indicate ripeness. Individual fruit or fingers, sit comfortably in the human hand, readily detached from their close-packed companions. Indeed, the banana appears almost purpose-designed for efficient human consumption and distribution. It is difficult to conceive of a more fortuitous fruit.

The banana, however, is a freakish and fragile genetic mutant; one that has survived through the centuries due to the sustained application of selective breeding by diligent humans. Indeed, the “miraculous” banana is far from being a no-strings-attached gift from nature. Its cheerful appearance hides a fatal flaw; one that threatens its proud place in the grocery basket. 

Now here comes the boring part.The banana plant is a hybrid, originating from the mismatched pairing of two South Asian wild plant species between two products of nature, the former produces unpalatable fruit flesh, and the latter is far too seedy for enjoyable consumption. Nonetheless, these closely related plants occasionally cross-pollinate and spawn seedlings which grow into sterile, half-breed banana plants. Some of you might say,''I remember being taught in Biology, ages ago, that the banana was triploid, i.e. three sides. Freak of nature it certainly is, but yummy as in banana cream pie." Right? Some ten thousand years ago, early human experimenters noted that some of these hybridized unexpectedly tasty, seedless fruit with an unheard-of yellowness and inexplicably amusing shape are also an excellent source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients.

I'm not a banana freak by any chance, so don't get any ideas. The point of this short post was just to share an interesting fact that I learned so that next time when you eat a banana, you should know there's a purpose for everything that happens. I hope this was informative. Enjoy your next banana. ;)