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A remarkable fruit
The fruit of wise men.
A perfect food.

What is being described here -all of these claims have been made with regard to the humble banana. So, just what is it about this yellow, boomerang shaped fruit that has made it so popular with so many people? What is the origin of the banana and what is involved in its cultivation? Let's investigate.

The banana plant is, apparently, an original inhabitant of India. In 327 b.c.e, the armies of Alexander the Great discovered the banana plant and carried it back to the Mediterranean region. Early Arab traders also carried roots of the banana plant to the east coast of Africa. In 1482, Portugeuse explorers found the banana plant in Africa and transported it to colonies in the Canary Islands. Around 1516 the banana tree found its way with New World explorers across the Atlantic. About the same time, Spanish explorers took the banana to their Mediterranean colonies. It was in South and Central American countries, as well as the tropical islands of the pacific that banana growth took off.

In the 1870's American and European business men saw the potential for exporting bananas from the lands where they grew in abundance. They formed companies and established banana plantations, known as Fincas. A complete industry was built around the export of bananas from Central and South America. Today, billions of pounds of bananas are exported from these lands on their way to North America.

The banana plant is actually a giant herb that looks like a palm tree. Bananas grow best in damp, hot climates, with temperatures remaining above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A fully grown banana plant will have a large bud with little purple leaves that wrap into a bundle. A plant produces only one bunch, which will contain nine to sixteen clusters of bananas. A cluster, which is called a hand, will contain between ten and twenty bananas.

There are over 100 varieties of banana. The leaf of the banana plant is full of useful vitamins and are extensively used in tropical lands. The real benefit of the banana, however, lies in its nutritional make-up. It is rich in Vitamins A and C, phosphorous, potassium and carbohydrates. They are also plentiful in their mineral content. Bananas are, then, an ideal energy fix great for a pre or post exercise pick up. The banana is also very popular because of its ability to be used in so many ways. It is ideal in cocktails, pies, custards, cereals, shakes and, of course, as the main ingredient in a banana split. Of course, you could just enjoy it as a stand alone snack.

Whatever way you take your banana, rest assured that there is a lot of power-packed nutrition contained within that peel. So eat bananas to your hearts delight, they've got to be good for you.