Whats With the Tiny Bananas?


I recently came across teeny tiny bananas in the supermarket, a variety known as Lady Fingers here in the South.  I was sort of dumbstruck that there was more than one kind of banana.  Turns out, there is a constellation of varieties and cultivars grown around the world!  Much like the varieties of potato and apples, each has its own characteristics and preferred usage for raw or cooked consumption and disease resistance.

In fact, disease is a topic of note at the moment.  In the 1960s the major cultivar grown and imported into the United States was ‘Gros Michel’ which succumbed to a fungal infection called Panama disease that ran rampant through banana plantations at the time.  We now rely upon the ‘Cavendish’ subgroup to feed the world and there are no less than five major sports of the Cavendish variety as well as nine other clones – including the Lady Finger bananas that are, at times, grown here in Florida.

Today we have a new problem ahead for banana cultivation in the form of a fungus that attacks the Cavendish cultivar(s).  Research is underway to cross breed varities once again to provide a plant that can withstand the disease as well as produce a tasty treat.  In the mean time, many growers are resorting to loads of chemical applications to protect their crop, which is a good reason to buy organic bananas when possible. 

Oh, and if the top photo amuses you, check out London Bananas.