A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Posted 2:40 PM by Luigi
Exotic history of a tropical treat
March 29, 2006
Many of us enjoy bananas as a breakfast treat or snack throughout the day. For mainlanders, moving to Maui sometimes involves becoming familiar with new varieties, such as the 'apple' banana or cuban red.
But how many of us are familiar with the banana's history as a foodstuff, or the details of its life cycle?
Sonny Fly, 33, an organic farmworker from Huelo, was familiar with much more. "Bananas are grown from keiki, not from seed. The seeds aren't viable that I know of," says Fly. "The tiny black dots in the middle of bananas are the seeds."
Fly admits that he enjoys bananas of the 'apple' and 'silk fig' varieties. He encourages consumers and farmers alike to choose rarer varieties of bananas for their purposes.
"It's important to support local growers with less common banana crops. Since they can't be cross-pollinated, farming rarer varieties of bananas helps the species as well as increasing the selection," says Fly.
He also says that commercially-grown varieties such as Chiquita are not only boring, but vulnerable to disease and climate change. "The farms in Latin America and Africa aren't very careful with the product. It's better to support the propagation of old Hawaiian strains," says Fly.
According to the University of Hawaii-Manoa Department of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources(CTAHR) web index The Farmer's Bookshelf (http://www.blogger.com/www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/fb/index.html), there are five major cultivars of banana currently grown.
Brazilian or apple and Chinese (Dwarf Cavendish) bananas were introduced to the islands in 1855 from Tahiti. Bluefields or Gros Michel bananas were brought from Nicaragua in 1904. The ever-present Williams(Giant Cavendish) and Cocos(Dwarf Bluefields) were also brought over in 1953 courtesy of the CTAHR. Philippine Lakatan bananas arrived on the islands in 1958. The oldest cultivar present in Hawaii is represented by the Hamakua (False Lakatan) and Valery (Robusta), which have been present here for so long that no date is given for their arrival.
Despite the diversity and history of banana proliferation here on the islands, Hawaii does not classify as a self-sufficient banana producer among the 50 states. At current average production levels yielding 10,200 pounds per acre, the state still needs 1,058 more acres of crops for self-sufficiency, according to the CTAHR website.
The English word 'banana' actually comes from the Guinea moniker banema. Although cultivated since ancient times, yellow bananas were virtually unheard of until discovered to be sweet and tasty in their raw state by Jamaican plantation owner Jean Francois Poujot in 1836.
Before that, green and red were the standard colors of ripe bananas and they were never eaten raw but rather cooked in a variety of ways.
In terms of botany, banana plants aren't trees at all, but instead a perennial herb. The stalk dies after fruiting, but other shoots spring from the same source, harvestable approximately one year later. Banana plants are classified as a berry and distant relatives to ginger, turmeric and cardamom. Crops can give fruit for around a century, but current practices involve replanting every 10-25 years.
Nutritionally, bananas boast an amazing plethora of characteristics.
They contain the sugars fructose, sucrose and glucose wrapped up with a dose of fiber. Tryptophan (the sleep-inducing element in turkey) is present in bananas, becoming seratonin in the brain and reducing depression in banana eaters. B-vitamins, iron and potassium are also found in bananas, good for a number of ailments. They are reputed to help mitigate anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, heartburn, ulcers and hangovers, as well as promote learning and memory.
Bananas are a worldwide culinary phenomenon, finding their way into both sweet and savory dishes from all parts of the globe. In the Western Hemisphere, we're used to bananas as a stand alone snack, as well as in smoothies, cereals, breads, cakes and other baked goods.
Latin American and Caribbean cuisines give them a savory twist by grilling or frying, served as a stand alone entree or side dish. They are also known to use the leaves for cooking purposes, as are Thai, Malaysian, Chinese and other Oriental cuisines.
In Thailand, bananas are popularly served coated in sesame seeds and either barbequed or deep fried. In Malabar, India banana is made into rolls, stuffed with scrambled egg and deep fried. Very much the colonial food, natives of Mauritius are known to enjoy banana fritters and tarts.
So as Mauians enjoy bananas regularly during the day or as an occasional treat, they are urged to remember the elaborate facts about one of our most universal fruits.
PO Box 454, Hana, HI 96713
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