Growing up in Florida, we seemed to always have wild bananas growing. At one house, we even had them in our backyard. These bananas looked a lot different than what we purchased at the grocery, so I looked into whether they are edible or not. Here’s what you should know.
Wild bananas are edible. However, they usually have a large amount of pea-sized seeds, which makes it hard for some people to eat them. Many people remove the seeds before eating them.
Now that we know wild bananas are edible, let’s dive into how to eat them and where to find these wild bananas.
Are Wild Bananas Edible?
Wild bananas are completely edible. However, there are large seeds inside that can make them difficult to eat, especially if you try to eat them like regular, store-bought bananas.
They also taste a bit different than store-bought bananas, but many people say that they are even sweeter than store-bought bananas. The flavor and texture of wild bananas are highly dependent on their ripeness, just like a store-bought banana.
Although wild bananas are mostly edible, it is important to be able to discern which ones aren’t completely edible. The best thing to do is use common sense. If it tastes bad, there are any strange marks from animals or insects, or it doesn’t look quite ripe, don’t eat it.
Wild bananas, on average, have about 15 to 62 seeds per fruit. That’s a lot of seeds! Because of this, eating wild bananas can become a little unpleasant and is definitely not as easy as eating a supermarket banana. However, you may get lucky and stumble upon a seedless wild banana every once in a while. There are a couple of wild varieties that are seed-free.
Seeded bananas grow in bunches of 12 to 18 bananas, with 5 to 7 bunches per stock. Wild bananas usually range from 20 to 30 centimeters long. The size of the banana depends on the amount of rain that occurs during the growing season.
How to Eat a Wild Banana
Because there are so many seeds in wild bananas, they aren’t eaten like regular store-bought bananas. In order to eat them, you must peel and de-seed them. You can de-seed a wild banana by cutting it into thin slices and removing the seeds.
Seeded bananas are often used to make traditional dishes in Java and Indonesia. This dish is called sweet rujak, which is a fruit salad consisting of local cucumbers, mangos, carambolas, apples, or pears. These fruits are then topped with a sweet and spicy sauce, crushed peanuts, young and de-seeded banana meat, chilies, tamarind, fish sauce, and sugar.
Due to the seed’s characteristics, it is not the easiest to eat wild bananas in the way that we eat regular bananas. Instead, it may be a good idea to add thin slices of the wild banana to a fruit salad or even a smoothie.
Are Wild Banana Seeds Edible?
Usually, the seeds inside of wild bananas are considered edible but are not typically enjoyed on their own. Seeds found in wild bananas are often bigger and harder than those found in store-bought bananas. This difference is due to years of farmers selectively breeding bananas to get certain qualities, including smaller and softer seeds. Unlike store-bought bananas, wild banana seeds can have a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures.
For example, in one variety of wild bananas called the Musa balbisiana, the seeds are considered inedible due to the extremely stony and hard appearance and texture of the seed. The seeds have qualities reminiscent of peach or plum pits.
In most wild bananas, there are anywhere from 15-62 seeds inside of them. The seed size can be the same size as a pea or more like a chickpea. Even though the seeds are considered edible, they are hard to digest and can cause stomach issues. Most people recommend cutting the wild banana and removing the seeds before trying to consume it.
Nutritional Value of Wild Bananas
Wild bananas are high in fiber, potassium, and carbohydrates. They are also a good source of vitamins A and B. Young fruits are often high in tannins and saponins.
Here are some of the health benefits of bananas:
- Improves blood sugar levels.
- supports digestive health.
- Aids weight loss.
- Supports heart health.
- Full of antioxidants.
- May improve kidney health.
- Supports exercise recovery.
- Great source of potassium.
- Supports good bone health.
Can You Eat Wild Banana Leaves?
Wild banana leaves are most definitely not edible, but they are used for a variety of purposes around the world. They are used to:
- Steam fish
- Grill fish
- Banana leaf boat for steaming
- Tamales wrap
- Pasteles wrap
- Used to line a pan
- Rice wrap
Wild banana leaves are also often used as plates, serving containers, and table decor.
Can You Eat Banana Flowers?
Banana flowers are far less commonly eaten than bananas. However, some species of banana plants have flowers that are edible and considered a delicacy.
Although banana flowers are considered a fruit, they are often cooked like a vegetable. Banana flowers can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, stews, and curries. You are also able to peel it like an artichoke and serve it in all kinds of dips.
The banana flower also has a few potential health benefits. Those health benefits include:
- Lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
- Aid’s gut health.
- Prevents enlarged prostate.
- May prevent bone loss.
Where are Wild Bananas Grown?
Wild bananas are grown in areas that have warm and humid climates. Specifically, areas that have jungle-like conditions naturally produce some form of wild banana.
Some defined regions of the world that grow and produce wild bananas include southeast Asia and Central America. They are also grown in South America, parts of Africa, the Caribbean, and some islands in the Pacific.
It is highly unlikely that people would find wild bananas growing in the United States, Canada, or Europe. This is due to the generally colder and dryer climates of these regions.
Where to Purchase Wild Bananas
Wild bananas are usually much more difficult to find and purchase than domesticated bananas. This is for a variety of reasons.
One of the main reasons is that the domesticated banana is mass-produced and shipped to many large markets. It is highly unlikely a person would walk into any kind of grocery store and not see bananas on the shelves. Another reason is that the domesticated banana is much easier to eat and has a flavor that people are familiar with and enjoy.
If someone is set on purchasing a wild banana, they would need to go to local markets that have access to wild bananas. These markets can be found in a variety of places, but the more rural the area, the more likely it is that you will be able to find a person who sells wild bananas. Another good idea is to look at farmer’s markets in warm climates. If neither of these options proves to be fruitful, a person can also go looking for wild bananas to pick themselves.
If someone decides that it is best to look for wild bananas on their own, it is important for them to become as educated about wild bananas as possible before heading out. They should be able to recognize and identify the wild bananas that grow in their specific region of the world, be aware of how to pick them and assess their ripeness, and know basic hiking and survival skills if they intend to go off of beaten trails and into forested areas.
Different Varieties of Wild Bananas
There are more than 1000 different kinds of bananas grown in more than 135 countries around the world. Around 79 species of wild bananas are still cultivated today. Here are just a few wild banana types to be aware of.
Lady Finger Banana
These bananas are a lot smaller than Cavendish bananas. They are also a lot sweeter than Cavendish bananas. These bananas are typically 3 inches in length and are known to taste a bit like honey. They contain little black seeds, but these seeds are pretty small and are usually pretty edible.
Red bananas have a reddish peel. They are much softer and sweeter than Cavendish bananas. These bananas are also known to have a slight raspberry-like flavor, which makes them a big favorite in many Central American countries. This variety of bananas has large seeds, and the actual meat of the banana is quite delicious.
Blue Java Banana
Blue java bananas are known to be extremely creamy and have more of a vanilla flavor. The peel is blue and has beautiful white flesh. These bananas are capable of withstanding and growing in colder temperatures. The blue java’s white flesh contains black seeds.
These bananas are very popular in Indonesia. This variety of banana is yellow and has a black spot on each fruit. They are extremely sweet. They average about 4 to 6 inches in length.
Plantains look a lot like store-bought bananas but are typically a little bigger. These bananas are known as “cooking bananas”. They have a high starch content and are usually not very sweet. Because of this, they are used in lots of savory dishes.
They aren’t usually consumed raw because they lack flavor. They are a very popular ingredient in most dishes made in Central America, Caribbean Islands, and Central and West Africa. Plantains contain seeds that are edible and barely noticeable.
Manzano bananas have less of a smooth texture than many wild banana varieties. They are known to have a bit of an apple-strawberry flavor. This variety of banana turns black when fully ripe and does not contain any seeds.
Gold-finger bananas are known for their ability to resist pests. They taste and look very similar to Cavendish bananas. They are seedless.
Burro bananas have a very tangy taste that is very different from most other wild banana varieties. They are creamy white or yellow and are slightly firm in the center. They also have a very unique shape. They are smaller and more square-shaped than Cavendish bananas. This variety of banana contains seeds.
Barangan bananas have a sweet, mild taste, much like the Cavendish banana. The flesh of this banana is white. It’s also yellow with black dots. This type of banana is seedless.
Top 10 Banana Exporting Countries
Bananas are typically produced around the tropics, as they thrive in moist and shaded ravines, marshlands, semi-marshlands, and slopes that are near sea level.
Here are the top 10 banana-exporting countries.
- Costa Rica
- Cote D’Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
Interesting Facts about Wild Bananas
Bananas were originally red and green- These bananas needed to be cooked and couldn’t be eaten right off the tree. Yellow bananas were finally discovered in Jamaica in 1836. Before long, these yellow bananas were being exported all over the world.
Bananas are not able to ripen on the plant- As you probably have noticed, bananas are almost always green when you first buy them from the store. If bananas were to ripen on the plant, an animal might get to them first, or they would turn brown and mushy very quickly, making it so that the bananas would not be able to be shipped around the world.
Some wild bananas can withstand freezing temperatures- Bananas are known for growing in warm, tropical climates, but there are certain species of bananas that are able to withstand very cold temperatures. A couple of these bananas are the Chinese yellow banana and the Sikkim banana. These bananas can withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wild bananas can actually be quite flavorful and are sometimes even better than regular supermarket bananas. Many different kinds of wild bananas contain seeds, but they can still be eaten in many different ways. They may not be as easy to eat as regular Cavendish bananas, but many people believe that they are worth the hassle of taking the seeds out because of the flavors and textures.
I hope this article has been helpful.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.