The Origin of Bananas

Did you know the most popular fruit in the world is the banana? Cultivated in the tropics, the origin of bananas has been traced back to Southeast Asia. According to horticulturists, the fruit first grew in Malaysia, but was farmed for the first time in Papua New Guinea.

The banana tree itself is actually the largest herbaceous plant in the world. The fruit, of course, is eaten either raw or cooked in a variety of styles. From the Indo-Malaysia region, bananas made their way to the Indian subcontinent with curious travelers enamored of the novel fruit. Evidence of the fruit in the region is recorded in Buddhist writings that date back to 6 BCE. It was in India that the origin of bananas spread to Europe when they caught the attention of Alexander the Great. The man was carrying out a campaign in India in 327 BC at the time, and the portability of the tasty fruit obviously appealed to him. It was in this manner that this fruit made its debut in the western world.

However, it was in Africa where the fruit gained the name by which it is known today. The fruits brought by slave and ivory-trading Arabs were in 650 CE were vastly different from the ones we know now, being about as long as a man”s finger. The Africans derived the term “banana” from the Arab term for finger, which was “banan” to describe the fruit.

It was in this manner that bananas accompanied slave traders toward the west. They eventually arrived in Guinea on the west coast of Africa, where they were cultivated. Portuguese sailors who made their way to the region by 1402 were quick to cultivate the fruit on the Canary Islands. The fruit eventually lost its original appearance, becoming fleshier and developing smaller or non-existent seeds. Slowly, the fruit became popular throughout the Caribbean and Central America.

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