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History of Bananas – Where did Bananas Originate?

Home / Banana / History of Bananas – Where did Bananas Originate?

The origins of the banana are a bit complicated. Bananas are said to have originated 10,000 years ago in New Guinea’s Kuk valley.


Kuk – the first place to spot banana domestication

It is reported that other unplanned domestication projects may have happened throughout the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. So even though Kuk is known as the first place to spot banana domestication, it is probably not the cradle from which all other cultivated species evolved. From Kuk it spread to the Philippines, and then spread out extensively across the tropics.

After its entrance in the Philippine islands researchers find it difficult to map out the flow of the banana.

The puzzling twist of banana production

The parallel development of hybrid fruits adds to the puzzling twist of banana production. By careful techniques of planting and culling, humans manoeuvred the seedless forms of domesticated bananas into hybrids. This led to the evolution of domesticated varieties which are more refined and complex. Because of these various reasons it is difficult to pinpoint the origins of the banana. It can be said in general that bananas originated in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia around 8,000 to 5,000 BC.

Bananas disseminated far and wide across the tropics from New Guinea and the Philippines. Within the first two millennia after domestication bananas could have arrived in India, Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The African invasion

Between the 5th and 6th century the plantain had certainly reached the African continent.  Banana’s existence is noted in the Buddhist literature in 600 BC, and Alexander the Great stumbled across the fruit during his expeditions to India in 327 BC.  Well ahead of Europeans, the banana may have arrived in South America, carried by sailors of Southeast Asian origin. Plantains were cultivated on plantations in China by the 3rd century CE.

Bananas land in the Middle East

Muslim merchants passed the banana along trade routes to a variety of places in the Middle East and South Asia, according to Islamic literature in the 11th century BCE. Banana reached Spain and North Africa by the 13th century.

Japanese weave banana fibre into clothes

To build into textiles for fabrics the Japanese produced particular banana varieties for their fibres by the 13th century.

Banana could have entered Europe during the Moorish invasions. Portuguese sailors took the crop to Brazil by the 15th and 16th century.

In the ancient and early modern world banana production was mostly small-scale operations for local consumption.  However, the presence of bananas in colonial New World and China’s plantation complex shows there were also large-scale cultivation of bananas.

Banana was more than just a valuable fruit

Banana was used as a precious intercropping plant. Banana plant offered the perfect shade to valuable commodities like cacao, coffee, and pepper plantations. So banana was not just a valuable fruit, but its leaves had other uses too. The fact that it is a non-labour intensive crop added to its popularity. It was also used to feed slaves who worked in plantations because of its high energy content and easy digestibility.

From a local to a global commodity

The shifts in modes of production and consumption in the early 13th century or the 1800s moved the banana from a local to a global commodity.

The bananas we enjoy today are far better than the original wild fruit which contained many hard, large seeds and not much scrumptious flesh. Banana is a popular fruit mainly because it is loaded with energy boosters. You can order fresh bananas from exporters in India. To find reputable green Cavendish banana suppliers, all you need to do is search online and place the order.