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Main Banana Discussion This is where we discuss our banana collections; tips on growing bananas, tips on harvesting bananas, sharing our banana photos and stories.


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Old 01-29-2010, 10:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default edible vs. non-edible

This might seem like a dumb question, but what is the difference between an edible banana and a non-edible one? My first thought, would be that the non-edible ones would simply not be able to be digested, for whatever reason. Although, don't animals eat wild banana fruits? If they can, why not us? Perhaps it's just taste and palatability that is the issue. I don't really like eating bananas anyway, so I wouldn't be the right person to ask, but I'm must wondering why we can't eat the 'non-edible' ones.

A related question is, if species bananas are all non-edible, from what I understand, then how, through breeding, do we get edible ones? What all of a sudden makes them edible?
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Old 01-29-2010, 11:14 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Primarily they are talking about seeds. The Musa Basjoo for example is considered non-edible, but is popular because it can grow most anywhere. The fruit however has very many seeds, therefore eating one is not easy nor good tasting from what I heard.
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Old 01-29-2010, 11:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

If you had banana-foster's you'd like banana's :^)
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Old 01-29-2010, 11:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Also, bananas didn't become edible "all of the sudden". That took place over thousands of years through chance natural hybrids and later, man-made hybrid crosses and selections.
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Old 01-30-2010, 12:42 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

So, 'edible' really means 'without seeds'? Lots of fruits have seeds, but are edible. A little odd, but thanks.
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Old 01-30-2010, 12:51 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

When they say they have seeds, they are almost all seeds with very little pulp in which to eat. Not like a water melon or a apple.
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Old 01-30-2010, 03:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Yes, Kevin, edible means "seedless".
For instance, basjoo fruits smells good, delicious and sweet when fully
ripe, but the trouble is that they contain a lot of hard seeds. That is why
they say basjoo is not an edible banana.
Likewise, velutina bananas can also be eaten although they also contain
a lot of seeds. So velutina is classified as non-edible banana.
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Old 01-30-2010, 03:58 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

The issue is actually rather complex, and its easy to see why its confusing.

In the world of bananas, there is one defining characteristic that separates "edible" bananas from the "non-edible". Edible bananas are vegetatively parthenocarpic, which means the fruit still grows and forms without pollination, the growth of seeds or any other external stimuli. "Edible" in the context of bananas means they have been selected and cultivated with the intent of eating the fruit, as opposed to the normal wild species types which are not cultivated for eating the fruit. A "non-edible' banana thus does not mean it cannot be eaten, just that it has not been selected for eating the fruit, and thus not parthenocarpic.

The condition of parthenocarpy is not exclusive of potential seed formation. The lack of seeds is due to sterility from a multitude of causes (of which parthenocarpy is not one...more or less). Many edible bananas exist that can still set seed (this is how banana breeding is done). There are also hybrids between wild species that are sterile, but not parthenocarpic (such as the 'African Red' ornamental banana), and thus don't have kind of mature fruit which is what the edible bananas would generally be like if it weren't for parthenocarpy.

The case of hybrid origin in edible bananas only has implications in terms of increasing diversity, but it does not have anything to do with the actual state or cause of being an edible banana. There are edible bananas which are just parthenocarpic versions of wild species and are otherwise the exact same (these would be considered very primitive edible bananas). There are also edible bananas which were once just parthenocarpic wild plants, but mutated and were selected over time into different forms, depending on how much they have been selected (generally in terms of sterility), they can be classified as primitive (fertile), advanced (sterile) or as is often the case, somewhere in between. The case with most edible bananas is that they are hybrids between primitive edible cultivars and wild species or between other primitive edible cultivars. These crosses have occured both within species (between subspecies) and between species. Furthermore, not only are they hybrids (likely not of a single crossing event either, but of multiple crosses over time), they are also often highly mutated from the original forms.

Non-edible bananas have very little pulp in them because the condition which makes edible bananas have lots of pulp is not present. Non-edible seeded bananas are not like if you were to have a normal edible banana with seeds in it. Non-edible seeded bananas are usually very small, with very little pulp and with lots of seeds.

The term seedless is not very accurate to describe a banana without seeds, because in a different circumstance that very same plant could actually form seeds. Seedless is also usually associated with being edible, and thus parthenocarpic, but as mentioned before, the mechanisms for parthenocarpy and sterility and independent of each other, and rather it is a coincidence of the two in varying degrees that makes a banana have seeds of not or have lots of pulp or not.

I hope that makes sense to someone, its not an easy concept to grasp right away, and it really helps to have seen all of these different types in person and have the chance to make the connections with live specimens which I know is something many of us do not have access to.
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Old 01-30-2010, 08:06 AM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

All bananas are "edible" the problem is taste and annoyance (seeds). If your going to starve just eat whatever you can get. Probably will need to cook if its real stiff. You can even eat the pstem if necessary and they do eat the center in some countries.
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:06 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Musa velutina is a good example - sweet fruit, but extremely full of seeds. I wouldn't consider it edible because it's mostly seeds and the pulp is scant.
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Old 01-30-2010, 11:15 AM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Thanks everyone! Especially Gabe15 for that very thorough, if still a little confusing, explanation. It is rather compplex, and thanks for trying to explain it. Wouldn't it just be easier to classify then as seedless and seeded bananas? If it's true that all bananas can be eaten, then just make groups that are better for eating raw, ones that are better for cooking, and ones that have lots of seeds. I don't see why you couldn't just take a seeded banana, take the seeds out, and eat what is left raw, or cook it up. Don't we already have bananas that are better cooked than eaten raw? So, really, there is no such thing as a 'non-edible' banana, rather, like ewitte said, it is an issue of taste and annoyance (seeds). Who came up with these terms anyway?
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Old 01-30-2010, 01:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
Thanks everyone! Especially Gabe15 for that very thorough, if still a little confusing, explanation. It is rather compplex, and thanks for trying to explain it. Wouldn't it just be easier to classify then as seedless and seeded bananas? If it's true that all bananas can be eaten, then just make groups that are better for eating raw, ones that are better for cooking, and ones that have lots of seeds. I don't see why you couldn't just take a seeded banana, take the seeds out, and eat what is left raw, or cook it up. Don't we already have bananas that are better cooked than eaten raw? So, really, there is no such thing as a 'non-edible' banana, rather, like ewitte said, it is an issue of taste and annoyance (seeds). Who came up with these terms anyway?
It might be easier for the hobbyist to classify as seeded and seedless, but the scientist needs to have classifications that make sense and are accurate, regardless of how easy they are to comprehend Again, these concepts can be difficult to grasp without intensive study and experience, but trust me, it all makes sense and is logical.

The difference between cooking bananas and raw eating (dessert) bananas is almost nothing, it is mainly based just on cultural use in specific regions. All edible bananas are initially very starchy and can be cooked nicely when green, some become sweet when they ripen, but some stay starchy or ripen in a different manner and lend themselves nicely to cooking even when ripe. Many edible bananas called cooking bananas can infact be eaten raw when ripe, they are just usually not due to cultural preference, and I've never had a cooked unripe dessert banana that didn't come out fine (and I've tried quite a few of them).

Like I mentioned before, a wild, seeded banana is not like an edible banana with seeds, there is much less pulp, in most cases not enough to justify removing the seeds and eating just the pulp. Imagine a fruit the size of your thumb in which 90% of the mass inside the skin is big hard seeds. By the time you get the seeds out, any free pulp is usually in tiny bits stuck to your hands and underneath your fingernails.

The term edible cultivar is used because (although not perfect) it is better than saying seedless (because as mentioned before, not all bananas without seeds are parthenocarpic or cultivated for food, seedlessness is a state of the fruit, but not a good descriptor for the cultivar as it varies with circumstance). When you think of the term edible cultivar, this means a cultivated variety (culti...+var...) which has been selected for eating (edible). This selection was deliberately made by people for the use of the people so we can eat the fruit easily.

I know these are not easy concepts, but this is the way bananas are, and if you ever get involved in banana science or research, this is all standard.
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Old 01-30-2010, 01:37 PM   #13 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

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Originally Posted by Gabe15 View Post
It might be easier for the hobbyist to classify as seeded and seedless, but the scientist needs to have classifications that make sense and are accurate, regardless of how easy they are to comprehend Again, these concepts can be difficult to grasp without intensive study and experience, but trust me, it all makes sense and is logical.

I know these are not easy concepts, but this is the way bananas are, and if you ever get involved in banana science or research, this is all standard.
Yeah, I think I get it, sort of. Thanks. It's just that non-edible, or inedible, to me, means toxic, or otherwise not able to be consumed by humans. Perhaps a different term would be more apropriate. If you weren't familiar with bananas as you are, and you had nothing to eat but 'non-edible' bananas, would you eat them? Not knowing, you'd have to take the chance of dying, or not. If it has seeds, it's still edible. Scientists need their way of classification, I understand, but using those terms is rather misleading to the layman. I can't be the only one to have asked these questions.
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Old 01-30-2010, 06:45 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Quote:
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I understand, but using those terms is rather misleading to the layman. I can't be the only one to have asked these questions.
Banana's taste different and folks here will share thier views on such in intimate detail. Just rememeber a term or classification is just that; you look up the term and your good to go. As many classifications of bananas family's and such some folks here are particular to the banana family tree and where everything comes from... One thing you need to remember is reds are more supseptible to the cold. Any banana you grow is a good nanner, till you taste it; then hopefully its delicious.. :^)
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Old 01-30-2010, 07:51 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Banana scientists usually just use the term "edible banana", and then either "wild species" or other terms for different other types of bananas that are not "edible bananas". Using the term "non-edible" to describe a variety is actually pretty much just among hobbyists.
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Old 01-31-2010, 10:09 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Great explanations, Gabe. Your descriptions make perfect sense to me, but then I have the benefit of a degree in horticulture and some plant breeding classes as well, so I can see how it could be confusing to the layman, as Kevin mentioned.

Kevin, I don't think you have to worry about any banana being toxic. It seems like you now have a good understanding of the working definition of what we mean by edible and non-edible bananas. Which cultivars are you attempting up in Canada?
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:30 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Kevin, non-edible can have lots of meanings to me--bitter, bad taste, too hard or fiberous, slimey,--of course it can mean toxic, but if I were going to describe a toxic food like Aminita mushrooms I think I would use toxic or lethal --not non-edible.
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Old 01-31-2010, 02:51 PM   #18 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

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Great explanations, Gabe. Your descriptions make perfect sense to me, but then I have the benefit of a degree in horticulture and some plant breeding classes as well, so I can see how it could be confusing to the layman, as Kevin mentioned.

Kevin, I don't think you have to worry about any banana being toxic. It seems like you now have a good understanding of the working definition of what we mean by edible and non-edible bananas. Which cultivars are you attempting up in Canada?
I think I understand, it's just the wording does make it a bit confusing. I can see how it is complex. I didn't know this before I asked, so I'm sure that there are other newbies who might have the same questions. I wasn't worried about any bananas being toxic, rather just trying to make the point that the wording used doesn't make things clear. I think I get it now, but it still doesn't seem to be very cut-and-dry. More to learn!

I only banana I have right now is a Dwarf Orinoco, which is doing very well (in my opinion) inside for the winter. The pseudostem is at about 2' right now, and I won't be able to get it outside until at least late May, and I'm hoping to get it as big as possible by fall (late September, depending on the weather). I'd like to get more ornamental varieties, as fruiting will probably be a luxury here.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:56 AM   #19 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

Are the seeds poisonous? All this talk is recreational but for someone starving eat what you can get. I'd just swallow the whole thing if its not poisonous.
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:19 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: edible vs. non-edible

The seeds and fruit are not poisonous and will not hurt you. Many indeed are considered famine foods. But if you ever have the chance to eat a few different wild bananas with seeds, you will greatly appreciate how wonderful edible bananas are.
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