Invasion of the Mutant Fruit
Have you ever looked for seeds in a banana? You’re right. There are none. You may notice tiny bits of what were once seeds, but that’s all.
The banana we eat cannot grow on its own. For thousands of years, people have grown this important food from parts of other banana plants.
The Mini Page talked with an author of a book about bananas to learn more about this weird, wonderful fruit.
Bananas that grow in the wild are inedible (in-ED-uh-buhl), or not able to be eaten. This is because the seeds are so hard and so big that it is difficult to get any actual food from the fruit.
But about 50,000 years ago, experts say, a mutant* banana plant appeared in what is probably now Malaysia. This plant had no seeds. People could eat the fruit.
A smart person discovered people could eat the fruit from the mutant plant. This Stone Age farmer took a
cutting, or piece of the banana plant, and replanted it to get more bananas.
The mother plant had long shoots, or new growth, growing out from under the plant. These shoots, which looked like giant tulip bulbs, were about as long as an adult’s leg.
These “daughter” shoots lasted for years, so people were able to carry them as they moved to new places, even across the ocean. People replanted these banana shoots at their new homes, spreading the banana through many tropical, or hot and rainy, lands.
Banana in danger
In the wild, mutations occur naturally in plants that grow from seeds. These changes can help the plant survive disease or disasters.
But because edible banana plants are all nearly identical copies of the 50,000-year-old mother plant, they have no way to develop new defenses.
Several diseases are now threatening to wipe out our favorite banana varieties.
This girl is selling bananas along a roadside in TimorLeste, in Southeast Asia. Bananas do not ripen on the plants. They stay green until they are picked. Then the starch in the bananas turns to sugar, and bananas turn yellow and sweet. People in many countries eat bananas in all stages. They use green bananas in meals much like we would use potatoes. Sweet yellow bananas are for dessert.
*A mutant is a plant or animal that changes from others of its species because its coding, or genes, change.
Scientists look at a banana leaf damaged by disease.