Bananas come in many different shapes, sizes and colors and some are propagated via seeds while others (seedless varieties) grow from a corm which is put out by the adult plant. There are lots of bananas that are used as food crops in different parts of the world, but other varieties are inedible and are only cultivated for their aesthetic value.
The most popular and best known variety of banana is the yellow variety but red and green ones are becoming more widely known and available across the globe.
The fabulous looking musa beccari variety comes from a corm formed by the parent plant which looks a little like a big brown bulb. When the plants flower and set fruit, the corm is no longer required and it dies away but not before a series of fresh corms have started to grow to produce the next generation. It is thought that all banana plants once had seeds but the minute residual ones that appear as tiny black specks inside some of the fruits are no longer viable. The plant developed the habit of putting out corms to compensate for this inability to get its seeds to germinate.
Red Bananas: Wikipedia: Creative Commons
Japanese Banana: Wikipedia: Creative Commons
The Japanese banana known as a fiber banana is very odd to look at and it does not resemble anything that most people would call a banana shape. Musa basjoo (the plants botanical name) is a very tough plant and can cope with low temperatures, so it can grow where other bananas would not survive.
This hardy banana plant is very quick to grow and between March and October (in the northern hemisphere) it can grow to more than 10 feet tall. In colder climates it probably will not flower, or bear fruit, but where the weather is warm enough it produces blooms and minute bananas that cannot be eaten. The Japanese grow this banana at a commercial level to make into fabric and that is where it gets its name from.
Musa splendida comes from India and China and does not usually thrive anywhere else. It tends not to be commercially grown as it does not produce very much fruit. These are popular for small farms and gardens in places like Yunan in China and in Sumatra.
Musa acuminata: Wikipedia: Creative Commons
Musa acuminata is commonly called the bananito and the fruit is very short and dumpy, not long and thin like the more common yellow bananas that are found in supermarkets all over the west. These tend to be a lot more sugary in taste and are cultivated mostly in the north of Australia. It is often said that musa acuminata has a kind of apple flavor to it and in some areas it is known as the apple banana, baby, or lady's finger banana.
Cavendish bananas: Wikipedia: Creative Commons
When it comes to trading bananas across the globe, the Cavendish is the main variety. This variety originated in China and further developments enabled the growers to produce a small Cavendish which can often be seen growing as a house plant.
Pink Velvet Banana: Wikipedia: Creative Commons
The musa velutina is a pink color and has a furry, of velvety like surface. The leaves are striped with cream and greenish yellow and although these are amazing to look at, they are classed as non edible.
The ruby banana comes from Thailand. It is known as the Siam ruby as that was the old name for the country. It is grown only for decoration and has ruby colored fruit and foliage and its maximum height is less than one meter and it is now quite rare to find.
Hawaiian Bananas: Wikipedia: Creative Commons
Musa Hua Moa is the banana which is native to Hawaii and it tends to grow in small clumps but each banana can measure as much as 4 inches in width, with a length of up to 10 inches.
The fruit grows in smaller bunches than most other bananas but the diameter of each single banana can be as much as four inches. They can grow up to ten inches long and are mostly short and fat. Some don't look like bananas at all. These can be eaten as fruit, or cooked. Although they are edible they do not really look much like bananas.
So, there is much more to bananas that the familiar yellow kind that most of us have come across. This versatile fruit has a whole range of varieties and flavors and is well worth investigating if you get the chance to try it out.