Banana is the most popular fresh fruit all over the world and its name comes from the Arabic word 'banan', which means finger. The scientific name of Banana is Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. But the old scientific names of banana are Musa sapientum and Musa paradisiacal. Bananas are rich source of carbohydrates and potassium. These are the first choice of athletes owing to its high energy potential. It is also an important source of trade and income. To safeguard sustainable banana production and generate wealth for smallholder farmers, high quality planting material is crucial. Banana was first domesticated in the tropical regions of South East Asia. Banana is a nutritious gold mine. Its high Vitamin B6 content helps fight infection and is essential for the synthesis of ‘heme’, the iron containing pigment of hemoglobin. The fruit is also rich in potassium and a great source of fiber too. In recent years, considering the adverse impact of indiscriminate use of chemicals, new trend of organic banana production has been adopted worldwide. A novel name, i.e. "Green Foods" for this has been coined. Banana is one of the world’s most important food crops. In India, banana crop accounts for 2.8 per cent of agricultural GDP. It is an important crop for subsistence of farmers, and ensures year round security for food or income.
Banana and Plantains (Musa spp.) are some of the earliest crop plants having been domesticated by humans. Bananas are consumed as ripe fruit, whereas plantains, which remain starchy even when fully ripe, need cooking for palatability and consumption. Irrespective of their commercial status, banana and plantains are referred as ‘Poor man’s apple’. Banana is globally ranked fourth, next to rice, wheat and maize in terms of gross value of production. It is a major staple food crop for millions of people as well as provides income through local and international trade. Among the starchy staple food crops, banana ranks third with respect to the total production. Though cassava and sweet potato are positioned as first and second, banana and plantain have almost equal importance in all the tropical regions of the world. Many cultivars are consumed fresh as dessert fruit, while a great number of culinary varieties are used in hundreds of recipes based on cooking bananas and plantains.
Description of Commercial Banana Varieties:
The varietal characteristics of commercially grown Banana are given below :
1) GRAND NAINE :
It is the popular international variety. It is a tall statured plant and a heavy yielder with long cylindrical bunch. On an average it produces a bunch weighing 25 kg and may go up to 32-35 kg, with 8-10 hands with 200-220 fruits/bunch. The length of the fruit is 15-21 cm and girth is 12-13 cm.
2) ROBUSTA :
It is normal statured with black brown blotches on the stem, bunches weigh around 20 kg having 8-10 hands/bunch. The length of the fruit is in the range of 15-20 cm and girth is about 12 cm with thick fruit skin.
3) DWARF CAVENDISH :
The plant stature is dwarf. Dark black brown blotches appear all along the stem. Bunches are large with compactly arranged 8-10 hands weighing about 20kg. Length of fruit is about 13-14 cm and girth is about 8-10 cm. Skin is thick and the fruit gradually tapers towards the tip. It is not fit for export.
4) RED BANANA :
The plant is tall and robust statured. The colour of the fruit, pseudostem , petiole and midrib is purplish red. The bunch weight is around 20-25 kg with 6-7 hands and 80 fruits/bunch. The length of the fruit is around 16-18 cm.
5) NENDRAN :
There is a considerable diversity in plant stature. Bunch has 5-6 hands weighing about 6-12 kg. Fruits have a distinct neck with thick green skin turning buff yellow on ripening. Fruits remain starchy even on ripening.
R.S. Sengar and Ankita Trivedi