The rich toasty, flavors of our Original Granola seemed like a perfect partner for bananas when we began to think about a new version of Bunnery Granola, and a little extra honey was a natural addition to boost this tropical fruit’s lusciousness. Bunnery Natural Foods Banana Honey-Nut Granola has become one of our granola aficionados’ favorites.
As it turns out, putting bananas and honey together is a stupendously nutritious idea. It also brings together two foods with long histories known by cultures across the globe. Although the banana’s cultivation is confined to the tropics, it has traveled around the equatorial belt to become the world’s favorite fruit. The plant is thought to have been cultivated as early as 8,000 B.C. in Malaysian Indonesia, on the island of New Guinea. By 600 B.C., bananas had migrated to India, where they were mentioned in Buddhist writings, and Alexander the Great may have played a role in the banana’s westward spread after discovering them during his campaign in India in 327 B.C. By 200 B.C., banana plantations were established in southern China, and a few centuries later appeared in Madagascar. Sometime between the mid-5th and mid-7th century A.D., Arab slave traders began to sweep through Madagascar and across Africa, eventually carrying profitable banana harvests as far west as Guinea. They also took the plant north to Islamic Iberia, and during the Middle Ages bananas from Grenada acquired a reputation for superior quality. At the beginning of the 1400s, Portuguese navigators took bananas from Guinea to the Canary Islands, establishing important plantations. A century later, Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk, carried plant rootstocks in his cargo aboard a ship bound for Santo Domingo, arriving in 1516. From there, bananas spread throughout the Caribbean Islands, Central America and Brazil.
Pliny is thought to be the first to describe the banana, or a similar related plant. He writes, ‘‘There is another tree in India, . . . remarkable for the size and sweetness of its fruits, upon which the sages of India live.” His reference to the food of the sages, “Musa sapientum,” or “the Musa of the wise men,” persists in the name of the genus Musa, the name by which the fruit was originally known in Sanskrit (Moca). Variations of this name are present until the mid-1500s, when “banana,” from a Congolese tribal language, gradually came into common use thereafter.
The largest of all herbaceous flowering plants, the banana has been an important part of the diets of tropical cultures for millennia. The varieties of banana cultivated today are descended from two original wild plants, “Musa acuminate” and “Musa balbisiana,” characterized by large seeds throughout the flesh. The most widely cultivated banana, the Cavendish, has been bred to reduce the seeds to small black specks in the flesh, and can only be propagated from shoots.
Bananas are an exceptionally healthful food, delivering a cornucopia of vitamins and minerals. At about 110 calories, an average four to five ounce banana contains approximately one sixth the daily requirement of Vitamin C, one fifth that of Vitamin B6, and abundant doses of Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamine and a dash of folic acid. High in Magnesium and Calcium with trace iron, zinc and protein content, an average banana provides four grams of dietary fiber and 25 grams of carbohydrate. Most significant, however, is the banana’s richness in potassium. At 400 mg, a medium banana supplies ten percent of that mineral’s daily recommended value.
Potassium plays a number of direct and indirect roles in body function. It regulates muscle contraction, including the smooth muscles of the heart and digestive tract. Potassium also acts to suppress excretion of calcium in the urine, reducing likelihood of osteoporosis and kidney stones, and aids in maintenance of electrolyte balance. On the other hand, this high potassium content makes bananas slightly radioactive. Bananas also contain small amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body does not produce on its own. In concert with Vitamin B6, tryptophan acts in the body to produce serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters regulating mood. Finally, Vitamin B6 is essential to the formation of blood hemoglobin, production of antibodies and strong immune response.
For more about honey, read about our Teton Wildflower Honey.