Common name: Banana, plantain
Banana is the vernacular name given to the monocotyledon plants of the species Musa acuminata or to hybrids of M. acuminata x M. balbisiana (sometimes called M. paradisiaca). Bananas are herbaceous perennials that arise from underground rhizomes. The trunk (actually a stem) is formed from upright concentric layers of leaf sheaths, and the inflorescence, placed at the end of a stalk, shoots out from its midst. Each stalk produces a single large flower cluster and then dies, new stalks then growing from the rhizome. The flowers develop without pollination into clusters of oblong, finger-like fruits, called hands, whose number varies with the species and variety. As it ripens the green fruit turns yellow or red, and the flesh is ivory-white to yellow. Bananas are harvested by cutting the stalks before the fruit ripens fully, when still green. After harvest the stalk is hung in a cool, shady place for further ripening, which may also be achieved while the hands are already in trade. They are shipped in special containers to avoid damage to the softening fruit during pasage. The main varieties are Gros Michel and various forms of Cavendish. They are usually seedless, the remaining ovules occurring as brown specks.
The banana, which is of Indo-Malaysian origin, is a warm-weather plant that does well on deep, well-drained soils in the humid as well as dry tropics. The large leaves use much water, necessitating regular irrigation during dry seasons. Saline soils and temperatures below 13ºC are unsuitable, and the large leaves require protection from winds. Bananas are propagated by growing rhizomes, which called suckers.
Bananas are eaten row, baked or dried, and may be processed to baby puree, flour, jam, pulp, wines and other edibles, and the waste used as starch or fibers. The term plantain is often reserved for the larger fruit that is mostly used for cooking, although the distinction from bananas is not clear. Banana plants, with their large, oblong leaf blades that are borne on fleshy, deeply grooved, short petioles are very decorative and often used to impart a tropical feeling to an indoor or outdoor landscape.
The annual world crop of bananas came in 2002 to about 70.000.000 tons, grown mostly in India and Central and South America. Israel produced about 100.000 tones of bananas in the year 2000.
Major banana pests in the Middle East
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