Banana, a fruit that is economically important; also the plant that bears it. About 35 species and more than 100 varieties, most of which are edible, grow in tropical regions worldwide. Bananas are used as a staple food. Several varieties are cultivated on plantations and exported to markets in temperate regions. Most bananas come from Central and South America; other important producing areas are in Africa and southern Asia.
There are many varieties of the common, or dessert, banana, which is usually eaten raw. Plantains, or cooking bananas, somewhat resemble common bananas, but they are not as sweet and must be cooked to be palatable. In Africa and Asia, the Abyssinian banana is grown for its pulpy starch, which is used to make bread; its young shoots are eaten cooked. In Southeast Asia, fiber from an inedible species is used to make rope and sacking. A number of species of banana, including the flowering banana and the Japanese banana, are cultivated for their ornamental value.
In the United States, the variety of common banana most frequently found in stores is the Cavendish. Other types available are the red banana, or red Jamaican, whose skin is purplish-red; the burro, which is squarish and chunky; and the manzano, or apple banana, which is finger-sized.
The common banana, by weight, is up to 20 per cent carbohydrates and most of the rest is water. Bananas are a good source of potassium and of dietary fiber. They also contain vitamins B6 and C, small amounts of protein, and a trace of fat. A single banana provides about 100 calories.