Bananas are as old a fruit as one can find. It is believed Southeast Asian farmers as far back as 5000 BCE – 8000 BCE primarily cultivated this herbaceous fruit while secondary cultivars emerged in Africa.
In the early 1400’s Portuguese sailors brought bananas with them on their travels from Africa and peppered the Canary Islands with banana plantations. The popularity of the flavorful banana worked its way to the Caribbean and South America in the early 1500’s, but it would be another 300 years or so before the people of North America would experience the delicious zest of the mighty banana. Its introduction to the American people came in the early latter half of the 1800’s, believed to be somewhere around 1876.
The origin of the word banana is derived from the Arabic word banana, which means finger and it is said originally bananas were no larger or longer than a man’s finger. However, the banana has many cultivars and therefore many meanings. Another popular name is the Guinean banana transferring to banana in the English language.
The oldest bananas known to humans were neither originally sweet nor yellow, but were rather bitter and the peels green or red. These varietals needed cooking to omit the unsavory bitterness. The sweet yellow skinned banana was a mutant strain found on the Jamaican plantation of Jean Francois Poujot. Once discovered, the yellow skinned banana became one of the most cultivated fruits of all time.