Bananas & Plantains

Banana, Plantain:  Cooks treat Bananas as fruit, while they prepare Plantains as starchy vegetables, so the Greengrocer stages Plantains separately, in bins alongside a range of starchy tropical stems and roots, such as Taro, Jicama, and Yucca.  But Plantain is just as much a fruit as its close relative (the Banana) in this complex of Musa hybrids.  As distant cousins to Ginger, Systematists will sort Bananas and Plantains over near Ginger and Cardamom.   

Morphologists, however, are unsettled because these are unusual fruit.  Firstly, they are sterile.  The tiny internal seed abort.  If the seed did develop, you’d have to eat around them, which would mean no more sliced bananas or plantain chips.  Secondly, the outer peel incorporates sepal, petal, and stamen tissue because the fruit are inferior (the ovary develops below the point at which floral parts become obvious).  Thirdly, this is a monocot, and everything about these plants is somewhat different from the dicots.  And finally, the three placentae are axile (like oranges, seed would develop along a central axis). 

Plantains are treated as a starch when green, and a fruit to be cooked when ripe.

Because it is fleshy, some people call the Banana a Berry (or Bacca), which is problematic because Banana is an inferior fruit, like those of Cacti and Guavas.  Our Carpologist, Dr. Spjut, classifies Banana as a Pepo, which means that in a museum, he would group it with the Gourds, Papayas, and Passionfruit.  That doesn’t make sense at all, because those other  fruit are constructed very differently (the seed are borne on the inner wall of a somewhat hollow fruit, a layout we call parietal placentation).  I am burying Bananas and Plantains in a fruit type special to berries formed from inferior ovaries, christened here as Sepultura.

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