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While bananas look resilient, they're actually very fragile and care should be taken in their storage. They should be left to ripen at room temperature and should not be subjected to overly hot or cold temperatures. Unripe bananas should not be placed in the refrigerator. This interrupts the ripening process to such an extent that it will not resume, even if the bananas are returned to room temperature.
If you need to hasten the ripening process, you can place bananas in a paper bag or wrap them in newspaper, adding an apple to accelerate the process. Ripe bananas that will not be consumed for a few days can be placed in the refrigerator. While the skin may darken, the flesh will not be affected. For maximum flavor when consuming refrigerated bananas, remove them from the refrigerator and allow them to come back to room temperature.

Bananas can also be frozen and will keep for about 2 months. Either puree them before freezing or simply remove the peel and wrap the bananas in plastic wrap. To prevent discoloration, add some lemon juice before freezing.

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Origins and Culture

Bananas were first domesticated in southeastern Asia. Many species of wild bananas can still be found in New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Recent archaeological evidence at Kuk Swamp in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea suggests that banana cultivation there goes back to at least 5000 BC, and possibly to 8000 BC. This would make the New Guinean highlands the place where bananas were first domesticated.

The banana is mentioned for the first time in written history in Buddhist texts in 600 BC. Alexander the Great discovered the taste of the banana in the valleys of India in 327 BC. The existence of an organized banana plantation could be found in China in 200 AD. In 650 AD, Islamic conquerors brought the banana to Palestine. Arab merchants eventually spread bananas over much of Africa.

It wasn't until the 1700's, though, that the first bananas arrived in North America. Instructions on "how to eat a banana" appeared in the Domestic Encyclopedia of Practical Information and read as follows: "Bananas are to be eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades." Bananas were smaller then, about as long as a man's finger, and named Banan after the Arabic word for finger.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

One large banana has about 600 mg of potassium, 2 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre. They are low in sodium, only 2mgs, and have 36 grams of carbs. Vitamins and minerals are abundant in the banana, offering 123 I.U of vitamin A, 13.3 mg of vitamin C, a full range of B vitamins - .07 mg of Thiamine, .15 mg of Riboflavin, .82 mg Niacin, .88 mg of Vitamin B6, and 29 mcg of Folic Acid.

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