First let’s consider the question are bananas a berry or herb or fruit? We would assume they are a fruit, that’s what we have always understood them to be. But a berry or a herb? They certainly don’t fit the look and taste of these two categories, but you might be surprised, after doing a little research on what the answer is to this question.
A banana is technically a botanical berry and considered a perennial herb because the stem is considered a pseudo or false stem as it made up of tightly packed leaves and not wood. The sweet white pulp is a fruit since it contains the seeds of the plant and the banana is a botanical berry because they develop from a single ovary and tend to have a soft outer skin and the soft fleshy inner part, which is the white pulp you eat. The part that encloses the seeds are also soft.
So botanically since a banana meets all of the above requirements it is botanically considered a berry and a herb. Take a look at the picture below. For more information on why a banana does not grow on a tree please check out our article: Do Bananas Grow on Trees?
We also cover in this article:
- Why a Banana is a Herb
- What Is the World’s Largest Herb?
- What Is a Banana Classified As?
- Why are Bananas Curved?
- What Makes a Banana a Parabola?
- Why are Some Bananas Straight?
As you can see above with the example of a blueberry compared to a banana the fruit’s seeds are enclosed by three structures:
- Endocarp: The part that surrounds the seeds.
- Mesocarp: The flesh of the fruit, often the pulp or part you eat.
- Exocarp: The outer part of the fruit or skin. In some fruits such as blueberries, the skin is edible.
You may also want to check out our article: Is a Coconut a Fruit or Vegetable Nut or Seed?
You may wonder where the seeds are in the banana? They are very small dotted within the middle of the white flesh or pulp that you eat. They have been bred commercially to have very tiny seeds that are sterile. In native bananas, the seeds are much more defined and larger as you can see in the picture below.
So lets now consider the question of why a banana is considered a herb in more depth.
When we consider this question, we must remember that it is the botanical definition we are looking at, much like when we considered what a berry is defined as. Botanically a herb is defined as a seed-bearing plant that doesn’t have a woody stem and that dies back down to the ground after it flowers.
A banana is a herb because it does not have a woody stem, but rather has a pseudo or ‘false’ stem comprised of tightly packed leaves. It is also a herb because the banana plant will die after fruiting, but new baby plants begin to grow from around the base of the parent plant. Within nine months the new baby plants will begin to bear fruit after which they will die just like the parent plant.
This process repeats itself over and over allowing for the banana plant to continue fruiting all year round. Since more than one baby plant or sucker as they are known will grow from the base of the parent plant, some can be transported to a different area to begin new banana plants.
Since a banana plant is a herb, it all depends on how tall they can grow.
The banana plant is the world’s largest herb as the Musa Ingens variety of banana can grow as tall as 15 meters.
Once they have fruited, they will die back only to have suckers or young shoots grow in its place, to repeat the process all over again.
So that brings us to the decisive question, if a banana is a fruit and a herb and a berry, then how is it actually classified?
Bananas are classified as a berry.
You might be surprised to read this as most would classify a banana as a fruit rather than a berry. Only because our understanding of a berry is often a small brightly coloured fruit picked from a plant, and a banana doesn’t fit our idea of a berry.
But botanically it is definitely a berry. Most people don’t realize that probably berries were described or named as berries such as the blueberry long before botanists categorized fruits according to precise classifications. The word berry just happens to stick in our mind as a small fruit such as a blueberry. And a berry is a subset of a fruit.
However, as we have explained above, since bananas come from the ovary of a flower and have skin with edible flesh and seeds then it is botanically a berry.
This is another question we needed to do some research on, but very interesting to find what the real answer is. Its probably a little bit of common sense along with some physics and biology. What do we mean by this?
Bananas are curved because they grow upwards towards the sunlight and are affected by gravity. It is A process that is called ‘negative’ geotropism, that means instead of growing downwards towards the ground they grow upwards towards the light and away from the ground. After this, gravity takes effect and the force of gravity opposing the upward growth of the banana produces the curved shape.
But you may ask, as I did, why? The simple answer lies in the original location and history of the banana plant. The banana plant originated in the middle layer of rainforests, which happens to have very little sunlight due to the thick upper growth. If the fruit of the banana happened to grow sideways towards the small amount of sunlight that penetrates through the thick and dense vegetation, the banana plant could easily overbalance under the weight of the developing bananas (sometimes in excess of 60 kg) and topple over. Remember the banana does not have a strong woody stem but rather has a false stem of tightly packed leaves. Check out our article: Do Bananas Grow on Trees.
So, ingeniously and with wisdom in design, bananas were created with a way of growing towards the sunlight without toppling or destabilising the plant.
A parabola is a curve that has the shape of an arch. Its mathematical formula is f(x) = ax2+bx+c
A banana is a parabola because it has a curve that is shaped like an arch. It gets this curve or parabola because of it growing upwards rather than downwards and the effect of gravity on its upward growth.
Since it is a parabola, we can use mathematics to find the variables a b and c of any banana. Below is an example.
So that is simply why a Banana is a parabola. However, nature throws some oddities at us, and one of them is a straight banana. So, we have to answer the question: Why are some bananas straight rather than curved?
If you have been in a local market to buy a few bananas you may have noticed the odd straight banana, that has no curve. Why is this?
Some bananas are straight because of the climate they are grown in along with genetics and whereabouts on the bunch or cluster the fruit comes from. The main big factor that limits the curvature of a banana is bagging the bunches while they are growing on the banana plant. This practice protects the bananas from insects but also seems to limit the light and this results in straighter fruit.
Bananas are a berry and a herb but not a tree or shrub.
Bananas are curved due to the fruit growing upwards toward the light and gravity pushing downwards on the growing fruit.
Want to know more about Why Plants Make Fruits? Please check out the article here: Why Do Plants Make Fruit
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