The stacks of yellow bananas in the produce department of your favorite grocery store are nearly 200 years old.
Not literally, of course, but the history of their cultivation stretches back at least that far.
And that’s no wonder. The Cavendish banana is a healthy snack, and it can be used in recipes far beyond the pudding and bread where it is most commonly found.
As an added bonus, the Cavendish banana tree can be grown at home, either as part of the exterior landscape, or as an element of interior design, although it won’t likely bear fruit if kept strictly indoors.
Read on to discover more about the versatile Cavendish banana tree and the fruit it grows.
History of the Cavendish Banana Tree
Cavendish bananas are named for Englishman WIlliam Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who cultivated them in the 1830s after receiving a shipment from the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius.
They weren’t mass-produced until the early 1900s, but by the 1950s, they had become the world’s most popular banana. That’s because the so-called “Panama disease” — a fungus-caused wilt — decimated the previously most popular banana, the Gros Michel.
Today, the Cavendish banana is the most commonly sold banana among the 1,000 varieties of the fruit, even as the Gros Michel remains among the bananas available for consumption.
Growing a Cavendish Banana Tree
Cavendish banana trees are self-pollinating, so single plants can be grown indoors or in the home landscape — although as noted, plants that are kept indoors likely won’t produce bananas.
And while they may look like trees, they’re actually classified as herbs, and technically are the world’s largest grasses.
Outdoors, the plants will thrive only in areas where temperatures average between 70-80 degrees with 50% humidity. In the United States, that means they survive best — fittingly, perhaps — in a somewhat banana-shaped hardiness area along the Pacific coast eastward across the Gulf Coast and up part of the East Coast.
Cavendish banana trees should be placed in soil to which compost has been added. It’s also helpful to plant them in groups of about five plants, to assist in root support. Full-sized Cavendish banana plants can grow as tall as 17 feet.
Our comprehensive guide, How to Grow a Banana Tree, will provide all the details you need to know to successfully grow banana trees in your yard or garden.
Indoors, dwarf Cavendish banana trees should be placed in potting soil, which should be kept moist, and should have their leaves sprayed regularly with water. The dwarf plants can initially be placed in a 6-inch to 8-inch container, but eventually will need at least a 15-gallon pot, to accommodate growth up to 8 feet.
For more on growing banana plants indoors, see Growing a Banana Tree Indoors: Everything You Need to Know!
What to Do With Cavendish Bananas
So let’s say you’ve harvested bananas from your home-grown plants, or picked some out at the grocery store.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate bananas regularly into an individual or family diet. They can be used in smoothies, cookies and pies, and even after they’ve sat on a kitchen counter to almost past the point of ultimate ripeness, they can be used to make a batch of whipped banana ice cream, as detailed in simple instructions from the website Allrecipes: Whipped Banana “Ice Cream” Recipe.
Other novel options for preparing bananas include a no-frying recipe for baked banana chips from the Archana’s Kitchen website, at Baked Banana Chips Recipe, and a collection of 30 vegan banana recipes from the website The Green Loot at 30 Vegan Banana Recipes for Breakfast & Dessert (Ripe & Overripe) .
Health Benefits of Cavendish Bananas for Adults
Cavendish bananas are the most popular fruit in America, providing workout fuel and also being a healthy snack.
For athletes, or anyone who works out, banana pulp is readily digestible, containing simple sugars easily and quickly absorbed by the body. As a result, bananas efficiently provide the fast energy needed for workouts or for participating in competitive sporting events.
On a more mundane — but no less important — level, bananas are an easy way for adults to ensure that they’re getting enough potassium, which is particularly important for maintaining cardiac health.
The overall recommendation for potassium needed by healthy adults, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is 4,700 milligrams per day. Most adults, though, get only about half of that recommended amount.
While potassium doesn’t prevent heart disease, it can help cut systolic blood pressure — the blood pressure measured with each beat of the heart, as opposed to the diastolic pressure measured between heartbeats — by as much as 10 points.
Potassium is often featured in diets aimed at lowering LDL cholesterol (the so-called ‘”bad” cholesterol), which can also reduce the chance of contracting heart disease.
Basic health guidelines for banana consumption are that the best time to eat a banana is 10 minutes after waking up, or 20 minutes before a workout. Bananas shouldn’t be eaten after a heavy meal, experts suggest, to avoid digestive problems.
Health Benefits of Cavendish Bananas for Children
Because bananas routinely are the first solid food introduced into children’s diets, their health benefits for the little ones are particularly noteworthy.
In addition to the potassium important for adult cardiac health, bananas contain calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin B6 and other nutrients that help ensure overall health in children and that also help keep them active.
Beyond physical health, bananas are a good source of brain fuel. Potassium — once again — along with manganese, Vitamin C and the fiber in bananas, can boost brain capacity, enhance memory and improve cognition.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Health experts recommend eating no more than two bananas per day to avoid any unpleasant consequences. Overconsumption of bananas can lead to headaches, because they contain certain types of amino acids that can cause blood vessels to dilate. Those acids are present in higher concentrations in overripe bananas.
Bananas can also bring on sleepiness, because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid also present in turkey meat famously blamed each year for lulling people to sleep after Thanksgiving dinner.
At ridiculously high levels of consumption — more than a dozen a day — the potassium in bananas that produces notable health benefits can become a problem. An excess of potassium can trigger hyperkalemia, a condition that causes nausea, slows the pulse, produces an irregular heartbeat, and can result in cardiac arrest.
Where to Buy a Cavendish Banana Tree
Cavendish banana trees are readily available, and can even be ordered online from nurseries or from sites like Amazon and Etsy. A dwarf variety of the Cavendish banana tree can be ordered online through Nature Hills Nursery.
Going Bananas Over the Cavendish!
Readily available at your nearest grocery store, packed with nutrients beneficial to young and old alike, and with many ways to prepare them aside from slicing them into cereal, bananas should regularly find their way into your shopping cart.
And for even the novice home gardener, the Cavendish banana tree — full-size for outdoors, dwarf varieties for indoors — can add interest to the old homeplace.
So why not just go bananas — over bananas?
Here at Minneopa Orchards, we’re passionate about bananas and banana trees. To learn more about bananas, visit our Banana Trees page where you’ll find information on various varieties of bananas, planting and pruning banana trees, and the health benefits of bananas.