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The Red Banana Tree: Everything You Want to Know

Bananas are some of the most versatile fruit we eat: from the perfect topper to yogurt or cereal to an easy-to-transport standalone snack, bananas are a healthy staple. Those looking to stray beyond the basics will be excited to learn of the red banana tree.

Its fruit boasts an uncommon flavor profile and extensive health benefits alongside everything we love about the traditional banana. Those curious about this tropical tree and its deep-tinted fruit need not travel far to get their hands on a piece, or to try it out in seasonal recipes!

Read on to learn where to buy a red banana tree and how to grow it, along with an explanation of its health benefits and some cooking and baking inspiration for you and your family.

Red bananas on a red banana tree.

What Does the Red Banana Tree Look Like?

The red banana tree is an evergreen plant that can grow up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It has large, oar-shaped foliage in a variety of hues, from green to brown, red, and even purple. Its colorful leaves are actually ornamental, and some choose to plant the tree not only for its fruit but because of the distinctly tropical feel that this tree creates in any garden. Particularly popular in South Florida, where the climate is adequately balmy, this tree compliments the landscape or patio, where either potted or planted in the garden it can provide shade and atmospheric charm.

What Makes it Different from the Cavendish (Yellow) Banana?

The red banana tree produces reddish purple bananas that, when ripened to a light pink, are sweeter, softer, and smaller than the yellow bananas we’re all familiar with. As a result, red bananas add extra flavor to the recipes to which they are added–and have some additional health benefits, which you can read more about below.

Where Can I Find Red Bananas?

The plant is native to East Africa, Asia, South America and the United Arab Emirates. It’s a particular favorite in Central America. However, you don’t have to travel that far to find one!

While yellow bananas piled high are certainly a more common sight in the local supermarket than red bananas, red bananas are pretty easy to purchase in the United States too. Nationwide chains like Whole Foods, Walmart, Amazon, and even Etsy offer them through shipping or in-store, and specialty markets like Melissa’s Produce also stock this tropical fruit.

Prices vary between retailers but tend to fall on the more expensive end as compared to the yellow banana due to lower demand for this hidden gem of a fruit. At Walmart, for example, red bananas sell for about $5 per pound, while yellow bananas average at 60 cents per pound. Still, I recommend venturing off the beaten path and trying the red banana, which has so much to uniquely offer.

If you’re looking to grow your own red banana tree rather than buy the fruit directly, banana bulbs, pups, and young trees can be found at plant nurseries, specialty stores, or purchased online.

You’ll want to tailor the temperature, humidity, light, and other care factors to the needs of this tropical plant as you grow the tree and harvest your fruit. For everything you need to know about growing bananas at home, visit our comprehensive guide. We’ll walk you through each step of growing and caring for your banana tree!

Red bananas and yellow bananas with a brown background.

Flavors and Recipes

Renowned for their smooth, raspberry-like flavor and creamy, custard-like consistency, red bananas are ideal for baking. It’s easy to find ways to incorporate this fruit into your daily diet or use it as the base for a special occasion treat. Use red bananas in our recipe for this One Bowl Blueberry Banana Bread or try them in our summery Peanut Butter Banana Icebox Pie.

You can also elevate an old favorite, banana pancakes, with red bananas for an even sweeter breakfast experience. Or, accentuate the red bananas’ creaminess in an irresistible banana pudding.

Those looking to make the most of the red bananas’ ample health benefits might opt for chopping the red banana into a fruit salad, blending it into a banana-oat smoothie, or simply enjoying the red banana with some natural peanut butter on whole grain bread for a quick and nourishing snack.

Bananas are incredibly versatile and can be worked into a wide range of recipes, and the natural sugary taste of red bananas makes them particularly well suited for desserts.

Red bananas have much to add to savory dishes, too. They pair well with nuts like cashews, hazelnuts, and macadamia, and also meats, including pork, poultry, and seafood. They can be used to thicken the consistency of dishes like curry, fried unripe into Cuban maduros, or baked into salty banana chips perfect for eating on the go.

They also have a longer shelf life than traditional bananas, meaning you can buy a bunch and use them over several days for different meals and snacks. Just make sure to store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight to keep them from ripening too quickly! It is also best to avoid refrigerating them, as this might cause unwanted changes in the consistency.

A dessert with red bananas and syrup.
A dessert with red bananas, syrup, and coconut milk.

Health Benefits

While all bananas have health benefits like helping to lower blood pressure, aiding digestive processes, and even helping to prevent certain kinds of cancer, red bananas in particular have additional beneficial qualities.

Packed with nutrients, they have been shown to strengthen the immune system and act as a source of prebiotics and antioxidants. Red bananas, like their yellow counterparts, are rich in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, magnesium, and fiber.

Red bananas are actually higher in some antioxidants and in vitamin C than yellow bananas, and boast a lower glycemic index (GI) score. They contain pigments called carotenoids that give them their distinctive deep color that also support eye health. Loaded with prebiotics that reduce bloating and increase healthy gut bacteria, the red banana enhances many of the body’s most vital systems. And it does so with less calories than traditional bananas: this nutrient dense fruit is only about 90 calories.

History of the Red Banana Tree

Red bananas first made their way to America via Toronto in the late 1800s, and they didn’t appear in the United States until the 20th century. But their fascinating history extends way further back.

Since ancient times, the red banana tree has grown in the Indo-Malaysian region, which has the ideal climate for the flourishing of banana plants. It spread through trading routes to Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and Africa before eventually reaching Europe during the colonial period.

As the fruit was exposed to various cultures, myths and traditions surrounding the red banana tree developed. In Central America, the fruits of the red banana tree is used both as an aphrodisiac and to help enhance fertility, while the Piro tribe held that each banana has a good and bad side, and bananas should be twisted down the middle when opened to avoid any bad omens.

A red banana tree.

Put Red Bananas On Your List This Summer

A tasty, striking alternative to the classic yellow banana, the fruits of the red banana tree is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth–or anyone health conscious! Whether you’re looking for a noteworthy addition to your garden or a new twist to an old recipe, the red banana tree and its creamy, pink fruit are the ideal choice.

As you’ve learned, the familiar yellow banana in grocery stores isn’t the only banana out there! To learn about other kinds of bananas and what they taste like (ice cream, for example), keep reading! There you’ll find lots of helpful growing and care resources, articles about different banana varieties, plus fun ideas for enjoying this delicious fruit.