Ah, bananas—they are sweet, filling, and nutritious.
And for these reasons and more, they are a favorite among many households worldwide.
Yet, did you know that there are 15 different types of bananas you can choose from?
Different banana varieties are widely cultivated and sold around the world. However, many regions in the United States cannot produce bananas, so they depend significantly on importation.
This fact may be the main reason you’re not aware of so many banana varieties. Depending on banana shelf life and storage capabilities, your closest grocery store won’t even sell all of these types.
How many varieties of bananas are there?
We all know bananas are one of the most popular fruits across different cultures. In fact, there are at least a thousand banana varieties.
Resulting from years of continuous experimentation and research in agriculture, many of these varieties are inedible.
The most common edible bananas are hybrids derived from two wild species—Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana.
It is customary to see a banana growing in private backyards in tropical countries with year-round warm climates.
Although, more often than not, the owners are not even aware of the exact variety they have.
15 Different Types of Bananas
Below are 15 different types of bananas you’ll find available in most markets.
Bananas sold in stores can be classified into two groups based on cultivation and recommended consumption practices.
Some are eaten raw, while others require cooking.
Most modern-day dessert bananas are upgraded versions of the Musa acuminata species. However, some types are hybrids with the Musa balbisiana variety.
These types are usually the yellow bananas that have a sweet flavor.
Here are the most commonly produced varieties:
Gros Michel bananas, also known as Big Mike bananas, was the main variety of bananas grown until the 1950s.
Early plantations in Central America primarily exported the Gros Michel variety to Europe and North America until a wilt fungus wiped out vast tracts of the crop.
Still grown in some plantations, Gros Michel bananas have a sweet taste, a creamy texture, and a thick peel that makes it resilient to bruising.
Cavendish bananas are today’s most common and most widely sold variety.
This variety has similar characteristics to the Gros Michel, but it is not susceptible to the wilt fungus that destroyed Gros Michel crops in the ’50s.
Most supermarkets and grocery stores sell Cavendish bananas, either green and unripe, or fully ripe with yellow skin and brown spots.
The lady finger banana is called such because it resembles the slender fingers of a lady.
It has a yellow color with brown spots like a Cavendish banana, but it is smaller, sweeter, and has thinner skin.
In fact, sometimes called sugar bananas, lady finger bananas are sweeter than most varieties.
This characteristic, accompanied by its small size, makes it a great snack or dessert for kids.
In India, where it originates, lady finger bananas are called Ney Poovan.
The Goldfinger banana has been designed in Central America to be more pest-resilient, cold-resistant, and crop-yielding than the Cavendish variety.
It is edible while still green, and it gets much sweeter as it ripens.
This variety is also one of the most widely cultivated, second only to Cavendish bananas.
Slightly smaller than Cavendish bananas, Barangan bananas are native to countries in Southeast Asia.
It is more popularly called Lakatan bananas in the Philippines.
With its mildly sweet taste, this banana variety is the most-enjoyed dessert fruit in the tropics.
Also known as Musa belle, Manzano, or apple bananas, Pisang Raja bananas feature an exterior yellow to orange color.
It has a smooth and creamy fruit texture and tastes like honey-flavored custard.
Pisang Raja bananas are famous in Indonesia for making banana fritters.
Central American plantations coined Manzana or Manzano banana from the Spanish word for apple, “manzanas.”
It is also widely cultivated in the Philippines, which has Latundan as the cultivar local name.
Although also grown in plantations across Central America, Mysore bananas are native to India and Pakistan.
It is closely related to Lady Finger bananas, but its fruit is larger and plumper.
Its other names include Thousand Grain, Klue Kai Ferang, and Pisang Keling.
Sometimes called red Cavendish bananas, cultivators closely derived red bananas from the Musa acuminata variety.
Red bananas have a deep red to maroon peel and a light yellow or pink flesh when already ripe.
Softer and sweeter than yellow Cavendish bananas, red bananas have a hint of raspberry in its flavor.
Dwarf Jamaican bananas are also red bananas that are smaller in size. This variety boasts a robust flavor, making its long ripening process worth the wait.
Most dwarf Jamaican and other red bananas are packed more with beta carotene and Vitamin C than yellow bananas.
Cooking bananas or plantains come from the Musa balbisiana cultivar.
Wild Musa balbisiana is inedible because it has a high volume of seeds.
Cross-bred with some characteristics of the Musa acuminata, it has derivatives that are perfectly edible and delicious after cooking.
These are the types of bananas recommended for cooking:
Also called bluggoe or burro bananas, Orinoco bananas are native to Venezuela’s Orinoco River Basin.
Central American plantations cultivate a large quantity of Orinoco bananas, which are popular for banana fritters.
Fe’i or fehi bananas are unpleasant when eaten raw.
As such, people from the Pacific Islands, where it is from, use it for cooking.
Its rich flavor can contribute to the overall value of stews and soups.
This variety has a brilliant orange to red skin and a deep yellow or orange flesh high in beta-carotene.
As its name suggests, praying hands bananas have fruits fused together, resembling hands put together as in praying.
You can cook praying hands bananas at different levels of ripeness.
Alternatively, you can eat it raw. It becomes sweet as it ripens and loses its starchy texture.
Otherwise known as blue bananas and ice cream bananas, blue java bananas are sweet and aromatic.
As its moniker suggests, a blue java banana feels like ice cream on the palate, and some say it tastes like vanilla.
Like praying hands bananas, you can eat blue java bananas fresh or cooked.
Macho plantains are the most commonly grown cooking banana variety in plantations in the United States.
These are bananas larger than Cavendish bananas, hence the term “macho.”
Macho plantains are suitable for boiling, roasting, or frying.
African rhino horn bananas are giant bananas. They can grow up to 14 inches in length.
Some grow as big as two feet even, and its large size compensates for the small yield count.
You can eat Rhino horn bananas fresh when ripe, but people usually cook them.
Which type of banana is best?
Each variety has a unique taste, and each consumer has his preferences.
If you have access to several banana varieties, we suggest giving each one a try to find out which one tastes best for you.
When it comes to discoloration, any banana variety turns black when reaching the end of its shelf life.
Some varieties are still edible even in this state, though, especially the varieties with thicker skin.
There are so many banana varieties because farmers and agriculturists continue to find improvements to make the banana a better fruit.
Their focus for improvement includes extending shelf life, improving taste, increasing fruit yields, and toughening against pests and diseases.
Try out each variety you can come across, but be sure if they are best eaten raw or if they have to be cooked before consumption.