Tag Archives: Bananas


Banana-sourced cellulose could level up our ice creams

Banana waste could, unexpectedly, hold the secret to better tasting, longer-lasting ice cream.


Image via Pexels.

Ice cream, while still in its ‘cream’ form, is definitely one of man’s more fortunate inventions. Nice things don’t tend to last long, however, and ice cream is no exception — on the hot days when you need it most, it’ll readily turn into ice soup.

According to an international team of researchers, that’s because our ice cream lacks one vital ingredient: bananas. Tiny cellulose fibers extracted from banana waste, to be exact.


According to a paper that will be presented today (the 21st of March) at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in New Orleans, adding banana-derived cellulose fibers to our ice cream mix would make the end product thicker, harder to melt, and more palatable.

“As a result, this would allow for a more relaxing and enjoyable experience with the food, especially in warm weather,” says Robin Zuluaga Gallego, lead researcher for the study.

Despite the undeniable popularity that ice cream enjoys today, food scientists have long sought to overcome some of its innate drawbacks — chief among them, its tendency to melt. And they seem to really, really want to make ice-cream reconsider its melty ways, as they’ve gone as far as mixing in wood pulp extracts in an effort to keep it more stable under heat. Other, less wooden ways of going about it, have also popped up, such as a paper published last year by Japanese researchers that developed a melt-resistant ice cream based on polyphenols found in strawberries.

Zuluaga’s team, which brought together researchers from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia and the University of Guelph in Canada, set out to investigate a different approach based on bananas instead of strawberries. Much of this came down to sheer practicality — banana plants are considered waste after the fruits have been collected, whereas strawberries don’t leave much by-product after harvesting.

In particular, the team wanted to see if fibrous material extracted banana fruit stems, or rachis, could be used to slow down melting and extend ice cream‘s shelf life. The researchers first harvested cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) — particles that are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair — from ground-up banana rachis. Then, they mixed various concentrations of CNFs (from zero, used as a control, up to 0.3g/100grams of ice cream) and analyzed how this impacted the end product’s physical properties.

Ice cream mixed with CNFs tended to melt significantly more slowly than traditional compositions, the team reports. They also note than CNFs could extend the shelf life of ice cream products, and decrease their sensitivity to temperature changes as they’re being moved about. No more refrozen ice-cream, yay!

It’s not only producers that will see benefits here. CNFs increased the viscosity of low-fat ice cream — viscosity is what gives the item its texture, it’s what puts the ‘cream’ in ice cream. Paper co-author Velásquez Cock also said that CNFs could help stabilize the fats contained in ice creams, meaning they could potentially replace some of the fats — which would slash calories — without having a noticeable effect on taste, texture, or your overall enjoyment of the product.

Next, the researchers plan to test how different types of fat interact with CNFs in ice cream and other frozen foodstuffs.

The paper “Cellulose nanofibrils in ice cream: an analysis of its influence on the matrix structure” will be presented later today at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in New Orleans. You can watch it live here:

New species of wild banana discovered in Thailand

Researchers have discovered a new species of banana christened “nanensis”, belonging to the Musa genus, sharing a place in the family Musaceae with more than 70 other species of bananas and plantains. Its scientific name honors the province of Nan where the type specimens were collected.

A – clump of pseudostems; B – leaf bases; C – cross-section of petiole canal; D – male inflorescence; E – female inflorescence; F – male flowers, tepals fused at base and six anthers fused at base; G – female flower, tepals fused at base and six sterile anthers or five sterile with one fertile anther fused at base; H – transverse and longitudinal sections of fruits and a hand.
Image via

Here’s a fun fact: every banana you’ve ever eaten — most likely a Cavendish — is genetically identical to all other bananas.

Why? Wild bananas contain big, hard seeds and very little flesh, making them almost inedible. Since its domestication over 7000 years ago, farmers have been hard at work selectively breeding the fruit to have really tiny, non-fertile seeds. Tasty, but not very practical — the lack of seeds means that growers must rely on “pups,” cuttings of an existent banana plant, to propagate crops. So basically, each one of the long yellow fruit you’ve purchased in a shop or grocery is thus genetically identical to all other bananas in the building.

One of the biggest concerns with having a whole species of clone organisms is that because they are genetically identical, they could all be wiped out by a single disease. Such was the case with the Cavendish’s predecessor, the Gros Michel, that was wiped out by the fungus fusarium oxysporum. Wild species of banana, however, do have seeds. The random combinations of maternal and paternal genes that sexual reproduction creates helps species adapt to pathogens. Should our banana crops ever suffer from an event as terrible as the Panama disease again, their wild relatives might be our only chance to save the banana split as we know it today.

Top banana

According to Dr Sasivimon Swangpol of Mahidol University and her colleagues, Musa nanensis is a perennial herb, 4.9 to 9.8 feet (1.5 to 3 m) in height. Its flowering time is year round, and its fruits are 2.8 inches (7 cm) long and 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) wide, straight to curved, angular with prominent ridges at maturity. Each bunch has 3-10 hands and each hand contains 4-10 bananas. Seeds are irregular, sharp angular, 3-5 mm by 2-5 mm by 2-3 mm.

The fruits and hands of Musa nanensis.
Image via sci-news

“The new taxon possesses generally thicker leaves than other Musa species,” Dr Swangpol and co-authors wrote in a paper in the journal Systematic Botany.

“In addition, Musa nanensis has various epidermal cell shapes with relatively longer hypodermal cells on its adaxial side as compared to corresponding epidermal cells.”

Several specimens of Musa nanensis were collected from only one locality close to the Thai-Lao border in the province of Nan. However, it is expected that the new species will be found across the border in Laos PDR.

“The taxon was found at 2,740 feet (835 m) altitude in the dry evergreen forest, by streams in a valley in a lower mountainous forest,” the scientists said.

According to the team, Musa nanensis is an extremely rare plant.

“Since the first collection in 2002 until 2012, it has been seen by the authors only at the type locality, where there are fewer than 50 plants,” Dr Swangpol and her colleagues wrote in the paper.

“In addition, its habitat in the dry evergreen forest in Tambon Dong Phaya, Amphoe Bo Kluea of Changwat Nan is threatened by heavy deforestation and fragmentation.”

“On the basis of IUCN, the plant should be listed as critically endangered and, therefore, considered to be in need of urgent conservation.”