Bananas come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. While the common yellow Cavendish banana is the most widely available, there are over 1000 different banana cultivars in the world. Some of the more unique and exotic banana types include red bananas, blue bananas, apple bananas, and banana cultivars with distinct curvatures like Lady Finger and Praying Hands. The diversity of bananas extends beyond their outward appearance. Different banana varieties have their own unique tastes, textures, and nutritional profiles. Some are sweet while others are more starchy. Certain banana cultivars are soft and creamy while others have a firm flesh. Banana diversity also includes the plants themselves – some banana plants grow over 25 feet tall while others are small and compact. This article will provide an overview of 8 of the most interesting and unique banana cultivars from around the world. It will explore their distinct characteristics, origins, uses and flavors. The wide variety of bananas featured highlights the impressive diversity found within this tropical fruit.
The Cavendish banana is the most common variety of banana found in grocery stores around the world. Unlike other banana varieties, Cavendish bananas are almost entirely seedless and produce fruit without the need for pollination. Cavendish bananas are a sweet dessert banana that are usually eaten raw and not used for cooking purposes. They have a creamy texture and a mild banana flavor that lacks tart or acidic notes. The skin of Cavendish bananas ripens from green to yellow, unlike other varieties that may ripen to red, purple or brown tones. Cavendish bananas account for around 47% of global banana production and dominate the international banana export market. They grow in large clusters off tall plants that can reach heights of 30 feet. Cavendish banana plants thrive in tropical environments and need at least 10 months of warm weather to produce fruit. The popularity of Cavendish bananas stems from their sweetness, soft texture, convenient seedless form and long shelf life compared to other varieties. They also ship well around the world thanks to their durable peel and resilience. However, because the Cavendish banana is genetically nearly identical, it is at high risk of disease that could devastate the variety.
The red banana is a unique and eye-catching variety of banana. It has bright red skin that remains red even when ripe. The red color comes from the high levels of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that also provides the red hue to foods like raspberries and cherries. Despite its striking appearance, the flavor of the red banana is sweet and mellow like a regular yellow banana. The flesh is much softer and creamier in texture compared to other bananas. When ripe, the inside of a red banana quickly transforms from white to pale pink to deep red. The red banana originates from India and Southeast Asia. It is smaller than the common Cavendish banana and can range from only 3-6 inches in length. Red bananas contain more vitamin C and beta-carotene than green and yellow bananas. Due to their bright color and sweeter taste, red bananas can be enjoyed on their own as a tasty and nutritious snack. They also make an eye-catching addition to fruit salads, smoothies, chutneys and desserts. The soft texture is perfect for banana breads and muffins. So for those looking for a fun, flavored alternative to regular bananas, keep an eye out for the red banana with its vibrant exterior wrapped around a sweet, soft flesh.
The Blue Java banana has a very unique appearance. It has silvery blue skin that looks somewhat icy or metallic, which leads to it also being called the Ice Cream banana. It gets this bluish hue from being a natural mutant of other banana varieties. The peel is silvery-blue when the banana is unripened, and turns to a more creme color as it ripens. The fruit inside matches the peel, with a bluish, purpleish cream color. The taste and texture have often been compared to vanilla ice cream. This variety is sweeter and creamier than typical bananas. Blue Java can grow quite large, up to 7-9 inches long. The plant itself also grows very tall, up to 20 feet high. This unusual banana originated on the island of Java in Indonesia. It is cold hardy and can survive temperate climates. They are sometimes found at specialty stores or farmers markets due to their unique characteristics. While delicious eaten raw, Blue Java is popular for cooking as well. Its sweet ice cream-like flavor pairs nicely in smoothies, desserts, and other dishes.
The Apple banana is one of the more unique varieties of banana, named for its short, stocky, “apple-like” appearance. Unlike the long, slender Cavendish variety commonly found in grocery stores, the Apple banana is quite small and stubby, typically reaching 3-5 inches in length. When unripe, the Apple banana has a distinct apple green color that shifts to a bright yellow hue with hints of red freckles as it ripens. The flesh is cream-colored and dense with a texture reminiscent of an apple, hence the name. The flavor is sweet with notes of apple, lending a mild, fruity taste. In addition to its unique apple-shaped form, the Apple banana plant itself is also distinctive. The pseudostem or trunk of the Apple banana is a deep burgundy red color rather than green. The leaves are also a dark maroon color with reddish veins on the underside. While native to the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia, the Apple banana is also popular throughout much of Central America. It thrives in humid, tropical environments and is smaller than many other banana varieties, making it suitable for home gardens. The fruit itself is quite hardy and holds up well to shipping. Overall, the Apple banana is an intriguing, tasty little fruit with visual and flavor profiles that stand out from the common larger, elongated bananas. Its petite size, apple-like attributes, and beautiful red-hued plant provide a uniquely appealing tropical fruit.
The Pisang Raja is a popular banana cultivar found widely across Southeast Asia. Also known as Musa Belle, this medium-sized banana features a soft and starchy texture that lends itself well for use in desserts. When ripe, the skin turns from green to yellow with dark brown spots. The flesh is cream-colored or yellow and has a sweet taste reminiscent of apple or pear flavors. With its sweet flavor profile and smooth, starchy texture, the Pisang Raja is a banana well-suited for including in a range of tasty dessert creations across Southeast Asia.
The Lady Finger banana is known for its long, thin shape and soft, sweet interior. This slender banana gets its name from resembling actual lady’s fingers. The Lady Finger grows in tropical regions and is smaller than the common Cavendish banana. It usually measures 5-10 inches in length but remains relatively thin at 1-1.5 inches wide. When ripe, the skin appears light yellow or orange in color. The flesh inside has a creamy white texture and tastes sweet and aromatic. Many describe the flavor as a mix between pineapple and strawberry. The flesh is softer and sweeter compared to other varieties. The interior comprises more moisture and sugars like sucrose, fructose, and glucose. This makes the Lady Finger a dessert banana with a luscious treat-like quality. The Lady Finger works great for fruit salads, smoothies, chips and other recipes wanting softer, sweeter banana pieces. Its sweetness makes it an ideal pairing with chocolate, caramel or peanut butter. Overall, the Lady Finger banana brings a distinctly sweet, soft and seedless treat.
The Fehi banana is a unique variety known for its orange-pink interior flesh. This type of banana grows in high elevations and thrives in cool and misty climates. The Fehi banana plant is taller and more robust than other banana varieties. Its leaves are erect with a bluish tinge on the underside. The fruits are plump with a tapered end and turn from green to yellow as they ripen. When peeled, the Fehi banana reveals a bright salmon pink interior unlike any other variety. The flesh is creamy with a subtle berry flavor and aroma. It has a velvety texture that melts in your mouth. Fehi bananas contain good levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. They offer a sweet and slightly tangy tropical flavor that makes them excellent for eating fresh or using in desserts. Smoothies, ice cream, and fruit salads are all enhanced by the eye-catching pink interior and fruity notes of the Fehi banana. With its exceptional taste and vivid interior color, the Fehi banana stands out in the produce aisle. Seek it out next time you want to add something unique and nutritious to your recipes. The gorgeous pink flesh is sure to brighten up any dish.
The Praying Hands banana is an unusually shaped variety that grows with the bananas fused together in two sections that resemble hands joined in prayer. This type of banana originates from India and grows in a conjoined twin shape that looks like two hands clasped together in prayer. When the banana peels are pulled down, the banana resembles hands folded in prayer. The Praying Hands banana has a mild, sweet flavor and is on the starchy side. The texture is softer and starchier compared to other sweet bananas. When raw, these bananas have a firm, dense consistency. When ripe, they become soft and creamy with a sweeter flavor and aroma. The inside pulp of Praying Hands bananas ranges in color from creamy ivory to pale yellow. When unripe, this variety starts off with a mild tartness that develops into a sweet, banana flavor as it ripens. The mellow, subtle taste makes this banana versatile to use in desserts, smoothies, and for eating fresh. Praying Hands bananas are eye-catching and make an interesting addition to fruit bowls and displays. Their fused, conjoined shape gives this variety a distinct look. The dual sections that look like hands pressed together in prayer are thicker than normal bananas. When ripe, the skin turns from green to golden yellow.
In this article, we covered the 8 most popular types of bananas grown around the world. The Cavendish banana is the most widely exported and sold banana, known for its sweet flavor and creamy texture. Red bananas have a sweet berry-like flavor, while Blue Java bananas have an ice cream-like consistency. The Apple banana is short and plump, tasting almost like an apple. Some key highlights are the diverse flavors and textures of banana varieties, from ice cream-like to apple-like. Certain bananas like Fehi and Pisang Raja provide more exotic tropical flavors. And the appearance of bananas can vary greatly, from the typical curved shape to small, plump sizes or even a fused twin shape. Hopefully this overview provides a helpful introduction to some of the most popular bananas grown and enjoyed around the world.