Jamaican bananas and plantains

Authorities believe that bananas originated in the hot, tropical regions of southern Asia and that the banana was one of the first foods that man cultivated. For this to be successful, a tropical climate where the temperature stays between 10°C and 40°C is required which roughly translates to latitudes between 30S and 30N.
banana production zone
bunch of bananas

The Gros Michel is said to have been introduced to Jamaica by Jean Francois Pouyat, a French botanist and chemist who settled here in 1820. He brought the fruit back from Martinique to his coffee estate in an attempt perhaps to diversify his produce. It was originally called the "Martinique Banana-Pouyat" then later this became the "Martinique Banana". History records that the Agricultural Society in Jamaica awarded Pouyat a doubloon for his effort in introducing such a valuable variety.

Jamaica was the first commercial producer of bananas in the Western Hemisphere. Thanks in part to shipping and refrigeration, bananas were able to be sent long distances. Elders and Fyffes established the Imperial Direct Line between Bristol and Jamaica in 1901. This was taken over by the United Fruit Company in 1910.

By the mid 1940's the banana industry in Jamaica had suffered greatly due to the Sigatoka and Panama disease to which the Gros Michel were not resistant.

"The banana and plantain were for many years treated as two species, Musa sapientum and M. paradisiaca. These are now known to have originated as hybrids between the species M acuminata Colla (1820) and M. balbisiana Colla (1820) and their logical classification depends on the analysis of the contribution to any hybrid by each of these species respectively and the determination of ploidy".
"Flowering Plants of Jamaica", C.D. Adams, Robert MacLehose and Company Limited, The University Press, Glascow, 1972.

Growing bananas

Bananas are propagated by division of the main stem (rhizome), or by planting suckers that arise by the out-growth of buds on the stem.
bananas growing

When the plant reaches flowering age a large red bud emerges from the center and extends downward gradually opening up to expose tiered rows of tiny flowers.

Each of these flowers becomes an individual banana, also known as a "finger". Each row has approximately 14 to 20 fingers that make up a bunch or "hand". As the stem develops, 7 to 9 hands are formed.

Once the plant has fruited it dies, but a new plant has sprung up around its base. The whole process takes around eighteen months.

Chemistry of bananas

One look at a banana tells you its exact stage of ripeness. A dark green peel means it's very firm, as the banana ripens, the color of the peel changes to yellow. During this process, the starch within the banana converts to sugar - thus riper bananas have a much sweeter taste.






"Bananas", H.W. Von Loesecke, revised 2nd edition, Interscience Publishers, Inc. New York, 1950

Return to links to the chemistry of other Jamaican items, including spices and fruit and vegetables.

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The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies,
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Created June 1997. Links checked and/or last modified 17th November, 2013.
URL http://wwwchem.uwimona.edu.jm/lectures/banana.html