Complete Guide to Bananas – From Characteristics to By-products

The banana or plantain is a basic component of our daily diet. So important is it that on April 21 the International Banana and Plantain Day is celebrated. But why is this celebration held? You see, the main reason is that this fruit is crucial to the economy of many countries, as direct jobs are generated from banana production.   

After reading this blog, you’ll have learned the main varieties of bananas, their history, characteristics, and benefits, among many other facts that you wish you had known before. Let’s get started!

What is the banana and what are its characteristics? 

Scientific nameMusa x paradisiaca
Common nameBoth the plant and the fruit receive different names around the world such as banana tree, platanera, banana, plantain, banana, cambur, guineo, Maduro, among others.
Place of OriginAsian continent
HabitatTropical and subtropical regions
DistributionGrown in more than 135 countries around the world

Characteristics of the banana plant 

Does the banana come from a tree? The answer is no, people commonly think that bananas come from trees; however, that is false because it is an herb that has no woody trunk but can reach great heights.

Banana plant


It consists of an oval or circular subway stem that allows roots to grow. In the early stages of the life of the plant, the roots are white and soft, and as the plant reaches maturity, they become yellow and stronger.

They have 4 to 8 mm in diameter and can reach up to 4 meters wide. In turn, the roots have small fibers that absorb nutrients such as water.


The banana plant has a main stem that grows vertically reaching over 30 cm high at the surface. It originates from the subway stem and is the base of the plant.

From this main stem, it grows a pseudostem, i.e., the set of compressed leaves that form the stem of the plant. They can grow from 3.5 to 7.5 meters high, which is why people believe them to be a tree.

Leaves and inflorescence 

The leaves of the banana plant grow from the top of the pseudostem in a spiral. They are large green leaves that can measure up to 3 meters long and 1.5 meters wide.

Once the last leaf is born, the process of inflorescence begins, that is, the process that gives birth to the flower structure that bears the fruit. It starts growing from the inside of the pseudostem and is born in the highest part of the plant.  

Banana bunches and fruit 

It is formed of hands, the name for all the individual fruits together. The weight and number of hands of each bunch will vary according to the type of banana but can weigh between 30 to 40 kg approximately.

Bananas are about 25 cm long and contain a white or yellow pulp inside, covered in a peel that varies in color depending on the type and stage of ripeness of the fruit. In addition, each banana can weigh between 100 to 150 grams, but the figure may vary among the different types of bananas.  

Types of bananas 

There are more than 1000 varieties of bananas worldwide. Generally, bananas can be classified in two ways: the first is called dessert bananas and they are the sweetest fruits that are eaten raw.

The second is bananas for cooking or plantains, which are usually fried, roasted or boiled and eaten along with the main meals of the day. Here are some of the most popular types of bananas.

Cavendish (Musa Acuminata

It belongs to the Musa Cavendish family and is the “typical” banana that you can find in supermarkets. It is in fact one of the most important in world trade.

They are native to the Asian continent but were cultivated and introduced in other countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Spain, among many others.

They can measure up to 25 cm, are green at first and as they mature, they turn yellow. They can also have black or brown spots when they mature too high.

This type of banana belongs to the dessert category, which is why they have a sweet taste.  

Baby banana or snack banana (Musa Acuminata x Musa Balbisiana

This type of banana also belongs to the Musa Cavendish family. Its name is due to the size of the fruits, which can be up to 7 cm long. Besides this, another of its main characteristics is its flavor, since they are even sweeter than the typical banana.

Plantain (Musa Paradisiaca

This type of banana is less sweet or flavorless and is used in all its stages of ripeness for cooking and accompanying various meals. Its flesh is commonly light pink, but it darkens as it ripens.

For example, when the skin of the plantain is green, it is sliced and fried (patacones) or grilled to obtain a salty flavor and thus eaten with lunch or dinner. It is worth noting that this type is a staple food in many tropical countries and not so common in other places such as Europe.

Red Bananas (Musa Acuminata

This type of banana is quite exotic and takes longer to grow than the average banana. They are native to Southeast Asia but are also cultivated in other parts of the world such as Ecuador, Canary Islands, etc.

As the name suggests, the skin of the fruit is red and they are sweeter than the Cavendish banana variants, with a characteristic flavor of red fruits.

The peel darkens as the fruit ripens to golden or brown and the flesh is light pink. This kind of banana can be eaten raw, with no cooking at all.

Banana apple (Musa sapientum) 

It originated and is cultivated mainly in Asia, but it is also present in other countries such as Cuba. It has a golden to brown peel, which can darken quickly as it ripens rapidly. Its unique name is due to its sweet banana-like flavor with a touch of apple-like acidity.

Benefits and properties of bananas 

Nutritional profile of the banana 

This tropical fruit is known around the world and is consumed from the moment children start complementary feeding thanks to its large amounts of vitamins.

We show you a nutritional table taken from the United States Department of Agriculture that illustrates the properties of this fruit (USDA, 2020).

Nutritional information of ripe or slightly ripe banana 
Serving: 100 grams of banana 
Water7,3 grams
Energy98 calories
Protein0,74 grams
Total lipids (fats)0,29 grams
Carbohydrates23 grams
Carbohydrate21,2 grams
Fiber1,7 grams
Dietetic fiber4,62 grams
Sugars15,8 grams
Sucrose4,18 grams
Glucose5,55 grams
Fructose6,09 grams
Lactose<0,25 grams
Maltose<0,25 grams
Galactose<0,1 grams
Starch3,66 grams
Calcium5 milligrams
Iron<0,4 grams
Magnesium28 milligrams
Phosphorus22 milligrams
Potassium326 milligrams
Sodium<4 milligrams
Zinc0,16 milligrams
Copper0,101 milligrams
Magnesium0,258 milligrams
Iodine<10 milligrams
Selenium<2,5 milligrams
Vitamins and other components
Vitamin C12,3 milligrams
Thiamine0,056 milligrams
Riboflavin<0,1 milligrams
Niacin0,662 milligrams
Vitamin B60,209 milligrams
Biotin<0,004 micrograms
Folate14 micrograms
Vitamin A1 microgram
Carotene8 micrograms

Main properties of bananas 

Cardiovascular health 

Banana pulp is a great source of potassium, and what is potassium? This chemical element is a mineral and electrolyte that overall helps the human body function properly.

The consumption of foods rich in potassium improves cardiovascular health because this mineral sends small electrical charges to the body, stimulating the cells that allow the heart to function optimally and the muscles to contract.

It improves blood pressure 

It also helps to improve blood pressure. This condition is caused by several factors, one of them being a diet high in sodium and low in potassium. This electrolyte (potassium) helps eliminate excess sodium in the body through urine and thus contributes to good blood pressure.

Digestive health 

Bananas help to replenish the electrolytes that are lost when a person has diarrhea or vomiting, thanks to the fact that they are rich in potassium.

To recover better, it is advisable to consume it when unripe, that is to say, when the peel is green. This is because it contains greater amounts of starch which helps digestive health.

Improves mood 

Bananas are rich in vitamins A, B, C and D; these nutrients contribute to muscle and bone health. Vitamin B, in particular, helps improve mood because it promotes the transfer of different chemical substances that reach the brain. In fact, vitamin B deficiency can have negative health effects such as depression or premenstrual syndrome.

History of bananas 

The banana originated in South Asia, and its wild varieties were cultivated from seeds. In fact, in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, these variants are still being grown.

Below, you can learn about the history of the banana from 5000 BC to 1985.

The industry of banana in the world 

Every year, over 100 billion bananas are consumed, isn’t it impressive? In addition, it is produced in more than 135 countries, making it the favorite fruit for many people.

If you want to know which of these countries produce and consume the most bananas, keep reading!

The 6 countries that produce the most bananas in the world 

The information you will see was taken from the specialized agricultural magazine Redagrícola, which made a special report on bananas with 2019 figures.

  1. India is the first banana producer worldwide, with a production of 30.8 million tons. But, most of its production is consumed within the same country.
  2. China produced 11.2 million tons, making it the second largest producer.
  3. The Philippines is a country that always has been in the top three in terms of world production figures, in 2019 it produced 9.3 million tons.
  4. Colombia produced 7.2 million tons.
  5. Indonesia, as well as Colombia, also produced 7.2 million tons.
  6. Finally, Ecuador had a production of 7.1 million tons.

Which countries export the most bananas? 

In 2019, banana exports reached 20.2 million tons. These are the 5 protagonists of this huge figures:

1. Ecuador 

Did you know Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas? The country’s banana industry is more than 100 years old and contributes more than 10% of exports worldwide in terms of monetary value. In 2019, they exported about 6.9 million tons to different parts of the world.

In this country, 17 % of the people work and depend economically on banana production. In fact, Ecuador has more than 5,000 companies producing this fruit, one of the most prominent is the Ecuadorian company called Ubesa, the main exporter of the country.

In general, they have 7.5 million hectares that are directed to different types of crops and, of this figure, 297,700 million hectares are dedicated to the cultivation of bananas.

2. the Philippines 

Bananas are also an important product for the economy and food of the Philippines. Almost all the time, the Philippines ranks among the top 5 exporters in the world. In 2019, they exported 4.4 million tons, thus retaining second place after Ecuador.

This country is made up of more than 7,000 islands; the most outstanding in terms of production is the island Mindanao, as they contribute about 80 % of banana production. The total land under cultivation is 13.48 million hectares, of which 447,900 hectares are under banana cultivation.

3. Guatemala 

Guatemalans are the third largest exporters of bananas in the world, in 2019 they exported 2.7 million tons.

Thanks to this industry, they create more than 30,000 direct jobs throughout the country. This product is a basis for Guatemala’s economy since it contributes 25% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

4. Costa Rica 

This small country exported 2.4 million tons of bananas, and one of the countries they supply the most is the United Kingdom. They have 1.8 million hectares where they cultivate different outstanding foods such as pineapple, of this area 51,800 hectares are for banana production.

The most prominent companies in this industry are Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte. Like the previous countries, this industry is also important for Costa Ricans, since it generates 40,000 direct jobs.

5. Colombia 

Colombia is the fifth largest exporter of this fruit worldwide. In 2019, 2.3 million tons were exported worldwide, being Europe the preferred destination.

The banana industry in this country is more than 90 years old, its history is marked by the massacre of the banana plantations (bananeras), a regrettable event for the whole country. In 1928, a protest took place in the banana plantations in La Cienaga by the workers of the United Fruit Company.

The people denied to go on with their work as they wanted to reclaim their rights and have a better quality of life. However, their demands were ignored and rejected. These strikes lasted a month, and from December 5-6 of that year, the Colombian army killed an indefinite number of workers while following orders to defend the company’s interests.

Today, the industry is strongly consolidated, which began with the creation of different Colombian companies dedicated to the production and export of fruit. Among the most prominent are Técnicas Baltimore, Uniban, Banafrut, and Banacol.

Which countries import the most bananas? 

This fruit is the fourth most consumed agricultural product worldwide. For this reason, we want to show you the countries that import the most bananas worldwide:

CountriesImports in US millions
United States$ 2.800
Russia$ 1.200
Netherlands$ 1.100
Belgium$ 1.100
China$ 1.100


The United States, Russia, and China import bananas mainly from the largest exporter in the world, i.e. Ecuador.

Ninety-six percent of U.S. households buy bananas for consumption, especially at breakfast time.

How is banana cultivated? 


Bananas grow in tropical or subtropical regions, that is, in places with humid and warm climates. The recommended temperature for growing this fruit is 27 °C; however, it can range from 18 °C to 35 °C. The temperature directly influences the speed with which the plant produces banana bunches.

Rainfall should be between 1500 to 2000 mm throughout the year. If the crops have a shortage of water, it can affect the size and quality of the fruit.

On the other hand, the winds must be taken into account when harvesting bananas, this plant is quite delicate and therefore winds must not exceed 20 km / h. If the winds exceed 20 km / h., the fruit size and quality can be affected. If winds exceed this speed, they can cause the leaves to fall off, break the pseudostems and even cause the whole plant to fall.


The soil for banana crops has to be flat and free of slopes. To grow bananas, fertile soil with a good amount of organic matter and a depth of 1.2 to 1.5 meters is required.

The banana plant can be grown in different types of soil, but soils with a clay loam, sandy loam, silt loam, or silty clay loam texture are preferred.

Banana propagation 

This herbaceous plant cannot be propagated through seeds, as this is not a viable strategy for its cultivation.

Therefore, the ideal method is to reproduce the fruit using the offspring or shoots of the plant. First, the healthiest and pest-free shoots are selected, then they are removed from the mother plant and cultivated to begin banana propagation.

The bananas 

At this point, keeping the plant well-watered is the key to producing good-quality banana bunches, as the plant is sensitive to dryness.

Bananas are available all year round, between 6 and 7 months the flowers are born on the plant, and between the 9th and 12th month of cultivation the first bunches of fruit begin to appear.

Postharvest and conservation 

Banana bunches are harvested even when they are green. After harvesting, the fruits are inspected and, as recommended, they are covered to prevent light contact.

This is done because the quality standards for banana exports are quite high, therefore, fruits that are too ripe are not allowed. This is how the bunches are graded, and generally the overripe fruit is sold at a lower price locally.

For this reason, bananas that are exported are green, meaning that they are not yet ripe. They are kept in refrigerated chambers at around 13 °C to increase their shelf life, and when they arrive at their destination, they go through ripening chambers and are then transported and distributed.

What products are made from bananas? 

Handmade products 

Banana leaf for food products 

The banana leaf is used especially in Central and South America as a wrapping for a traditional product that goes by various names, for example, in Colombia it is called tamales and in Venezuela hallacas or bollos.

This product is quite famous and allows people to produce income from the production and sale of this handmade product.

Banana fiber 

One of the most famous products is banana fiber, which has been produced since the 13th century in Japan.

But how is this fiber made? It’s made from the stalk of the banana plant after harvesting, it is a manual process in which the fibers are taken to be dried and spun. This results in vegetable fiber, which is increasingly famous for being biodegradable and having high durability.

Some of the products that can be made with it are:

  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Fabrics
  • Ropes
  • Clothes
  • Carpets
  • Fishing fibers
  • Among others

Industrial products 

Since bananas are one of the most consumed fruits in the world, more and more products are being made from this fruit. Many products can be made from bananas. For example:

  • Flour
  • Jams
  • Vinegar
  • Beverages
  • Dehydrated banana chips
  • Paste made from the peel of the fruit
  • Among others

Cosmetic products 

Not only is this fruit eaten but is also used to manufacture cosmetic products. The industry uses it because it contains high amounts of potassium and magnesium, minerals that help the skin to have strength and vitality.

Some of the cosmetic products that have bananas as their main ingredient are:

  • Moisturizers
  • Exfoliating scrubs
  • Facial masks
  • Makeup powders
  • Hair masks
  • Nail polish remover
  • Lip moisturizers
  • Body oils
  • Suntan lotions
  • Among others


The banana or plantain is one of the star products worldwide. It is of great importance because besides being one of the most consumed fruits, it is also the representation of the economy of many countries that generate income and jobs with the production and export of this fruit.

We invite you to consume bananas both raw and in the by-products that are made from this fruit, so you will take advantage of its benefits and support the banana industry.