Also known as the Latundan banana or Manzano banana– the “apple banana” is not a typo, but one fascinating variety in a world of over 1000 different types of bananas. Many people are unaware this fruit exists, but the idea of a small banana that tastes like apples is hard to forget.
Whether you’re looking to brush up your knowledge or start the wheelhouse from scratch, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the apple banana tree.
History of the Apple Banana Tree
With so many types of bananas, where did the apple banana come from? This fruit is considered a triploid hybrid banana cultivar– meaning that this plant is a genetic wonder, given the scientific name Musa acuminata x M. balbisiana due to its cross between the two species. A member of the AAB silk subgroup– one of many groups that banana cultivars may be classified as– this fruit is also sometimes referred to as the “silk banana”.
It’s likely that the apple banana tree originated somewhere between 2000-3000 years ago in the Philippines, where it remains a popular variety. The fruit also finds popularity in Southeast Asia, South America, and Hawaii.
Characteristics of the Apple Banana Tree
An average apple banana tree will reach between ten to fourteen feet at full height. The tree will form large green leaves with slightly red edges, stretching to be about five to six feet wide. The middle of the plant will grow purple and yellowish flowers, making this tree a beautiful decorative piece for your outdoor space. When growth begins, the apple bananas will present themselves in large, tightly-packed bunches.
Characteristics of the Apple Banana Fruit
If your banana consumption tends to come from your local grocery store, chances are you’ve only eaten a Cavendish banana–the most popular grocery store variety, due to its impressive ability to hold up during transport. The apple banana is much smaller, averaging between four to five and a half inches.
The flavor is noticeably more tart than other varieties– yet the fruit is still sweet with rich, tangy notes that are reminiscent of an apple. The silk banana lacks seeds, and generally tends to be a bit more firm.
Unlike the Cavendish banana, brown spots are a welcomed detail– this feature means that your fruit is ripening nicely. Any hint of green on the peel will mean that the inside is still much too firm to be enjoyed.
Eating the Fruit
Apple bananas are popular dessert bananas, due to their exceptional ability to pair with a wide variety of flavors you find yourself craving after a delicious meal. The fruit may be enjoyed dried, fried, fresh, frozen, blended, baked, or virtually any other cooking adjective you can think of. Manzano bananas are slow to brown when exposed to air, making them a star in yogurt bowls, fruit salads, or atop toast.
Pancakes, waffles, crepes, and oatmeals will benefit from the addition of this subtly sweet topping. Kids (and adults too!) will be excited to experience the flavor combination of two very popular fruits on top of some breakfast favorites.
Maintaining Shelf Life
Once your fruit is ripe, try to eat them within a few days to avoid spoilage. Store bananas away from direct sunlight, as this will cause your fruit to spoil at a much faster rate.
Cooking With Apple Bananas
If you’re into smoothies, try adding one of these unique fruits to your blender next time. The banana acts as a natural thickening agent and adds an exciting flavor to spruce up your normal go-to. In classic banana breads, the crisp apple flavor of the silk banana can give you a fun new variety to play with when baking. If you need inspiration, check out this fun recipe for our one-bowl Blueberry Banana Bread!
If you’d like to try your hand at making Banana Jam, try substituting an apple banana for your usual banana for a mind-blowing flavor profile. Like icebox pies? Try adding your apple bananas to this recipe for a slightly different version of our Peanut Butter Banana Icebox Pie!
Although any banana-inclusive recipe makes for a good candidate to try your hand at spicing things up in the kitchen, check out these great recipes for a little more inspiration.
Like most banana varieties, the apple banana tree provides you with a fruit that is packed full of various vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to provide you with a large range of health benefits. High fiber promotes digestion and keeps you full for longer periods, while the combination of high potassium and low sodium helps prevent high blood pressure.
It is noted that apple bananas contain more Vitamin C than other varieties of bananas, which promotes overall growth and healing within the body. Vitamins A and B6 also make for a noteworthy presence. For a full explanation of how making bananas a regular part of your diet is a good thing, read our blog post all about the Health Benefits of Bananas.
Growing Your Own Apple Banana Tree
Apple banana trees are not produced commercially, but in certain parts of the world it is not uncommon to find the beautiful plant growing in small farms or in personal backyards. Ideal growing conditions for apple bananas include full or partial sun, with temperatures averaging above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, freezing temperatures will not kill the tree– just slow its growth.
Between six to eight feet of spacing is ideal for ensuring that the banana plant has plenty of room to grow into a mature tree. Apple banana trees enjoy a humid, moist environment. When watering your fruit tree, make sure to saturate the well-draining soil to keep the ground moist and promote the best conditions for growth. Be mindful of drought stress– this too will slow growth.
Depending on the conditions your tree grows up in, apple banana plants tend to bear fruit within fifteen to eighteen months after planting. In very ideal conditions, you may have your first banana harvest as early as one year after planting. Adding nitrogen-rich soil to fertilize your plant is a great way to encourage faster growth.
Throughout the maturation of your tree, don’t forget to prune yellowing and drying leaves to allow your plant to put its focus on healthy development. For a step-by-step guide on how to grow a banana tree, read our comprehensive guide on Growing Banana Trees.
Where to Buy An Apple Banana Tree
Now that you’re looking forward to having an apple banana tree of your own, it’s time to find out where you can get one. Due to the lack of commercial production, the best place to find your plant is from a reputable online nursery. Apple banana trees are also sold on Amazon under the name Manzano Apple Banana.
Give Apple Bananas a Try in Your Home
With such unique characteristics, the apple banana tree bears fruit that is truly unforgettable. Whether you were just curious about this peculiar fruit or intend to incorporate it as a fun new addition to your cooking or gardening collection, your newfound knowledge is sure to stick with you from here on out.
Excited for more banana content? Then check out my banana tree page for info guides, growing tips, recipes, and more!
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Spending her early childhood in the Hudson Valley region of New York, Alanna Singletary has wonderful memories of helping her uncle tend to his lush garden each year.
Rather than turning on Saturday cartoons, her winter mornings were filled with sap collection and maple syrup production; while summer days brought tomato picking and countless hours tending to a homemade tomato sauce.
Now residing in North Carolina, Alanna continues to assist with her father’s grand garden and is working on growing crops of her own. Her garden experience at an early age set her up for a constant desire to learn, something she continues to carry in all aspects of life.