Bananas are one of the most popular fruits worldwide. In fact, they’re so popular that over 150 countries cultivate over 105 million tonnes of them every year.
Most of us are familiar with the distinctly yellow bananas sold in the United States and Canada (aka. cavendish bananas). But there are many other varieties, like the blue java banana, which some of us have never seen, let alone even heard of before.
Blue Java Bananas
The Blue Java banana, otherwise known as the Ice Cream banana, Hawaiian banana, Ney Mannan, Krie or Cenzio, are rather chubby, and can get as big as 7 inches long. The skin is blotchy, silvery-blue and the flesh is creamy white.
The Blue Java is a hardy, cold tolerant banana cultivar, and is known for its sweet, aromatic fruit that is said to have a consistency similar to ice cream and flavor reminiscent of vanilla.
Blue Java bananas originated in Southeast Asia, and are prevalent throughout the Hawaiian islands. In Hawaii it is known as the ‘Ice Cream banana’ and in Fiji as the “Hawaiian banana’. It is also called ‘Krie’ in the Philippines and ‘Cenizo’ in Central America.
The Blue Java is apart of the ABB Group of bananas, meaning that it contains one set of chromosomes donated by Musa acuminata and two by Musa balbisiana (1). When unripe, they exhibit a characteristic silvery blue color, and then turn a pale yellow when fully ripe.
While the Blue Java banana is edible raw when fully ripe, many countries who grow these bananas prefer them fried, baked or otherwise – similar to the way plantains are often cooked (2).
Health Benefits of Blue Java Bananas
Similar to cavendish bananas, blue java bananas possess many similar benefits. They contain a fair amount of fiber, as well as several antioxidants that help boost the immune system. They’re rich in vitamin B6 and C, and contain plenty of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and protein.
With that being said, here are some of the top benefits of Blue Java bananas.
1. Moderate Blood Sugar Levels
Blue Java bananas come with pectin (a type of fiber) and resistant starch (when not fully ripe). Both pectin and resistant starch may moderate blood sugar levels after meals and help reduce appetite by slowing the emptying of your stomach (3, 4). Bananas also rank low to medium on the glycemic index (GI), which means they should not cause major blood sugar spikes in healthy individuals.
2. Improve Mood
Blue Java bananas are a rich source of vitamin B6, which is necessary for helping the body to synthesize its own serotonin. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin B6 in adults is 1.3 milligrams (mg). One medium banana contains around 0.4 mg of vitamin B6, so if you made a smoothie, or delicious banana ice cream with 2-3 Blue Java’s, you’d be getting over 75% of your RDA of vitamin B6. Not bad for a mood improver!
3. Improve Digestive Health
Bananas contain non-digestible fibers like cellulose, hemicellulose and alpha-glucans, which helps prevent constipation and restores and maintains regular bowel function (5). The resistant starch in unripe bananas also escapes digestion and ends up in your large intestine where it becomes food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut (6). Pectin has also been found by some studies to help protect against colon cancer (7).
4. Support Heart Health
Potassium is essential for heart health, and blue java bananas are full of potassium. While most people believe they get enough potassium every day, many do not. Getting enough potassium in your diet can help lower blood pressure, and it has even been found that those who eat plenty of potassium have a 27% lower risk of heart disease (8).
Where Do You Buy Blue Java Bananas?
While finding a blue java banana in the United States and Canada might be difficult, there is one place online that you can order from. Miami Fruit in Florida actually sells these bananas (and many other fruit varieties) and ships them straight to your door. While ordering to Canada might be a little more difficult, if you live in the United States, I’d encourage anyone to give these bananas a try!
How to Grow Blue Java Bananas
Blue java bananas can grow up to 4.5 to 6 meters (15-20 feet) in height. They are cold tolerant, as well as wind resistant because of their strong pseudostems and root systems, making them a suitable fruit to be grown in the more colder climates across much of the United States.
Unlike most tropical fruit trees, the Blue Java banana plant can withstand temperatures as low as 20ºF (-6ºC), meaning that they will thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 8-10 (like most of California, parts of the Pacific Northwest and across the South).
They’re fast growing, and produce fruit fast, so if you have the ability to grow these trees, I’d highly suggest you do so! You can even purchase the potted trees online (this website sells some), and have bananas within 9 months. If you’d rather start the fruit from seed, you can also do that.
So you have your plant, now what do you do with it?
These plants thrive in consistently moist soil, but they can handle hot and dry conditions as long as they’re watered regularly, and the temperatures don’t drop below -20ºF in the winter. With this being said, make sure the soil stays consistently damp throughout the growing season. Provide enough water to saturate the roots, but don’t water so much that the plant stands in water.
During warm weather, the ice cream banana should be fed with an organic fertilizer with balanced NPK (Nitrogen:Phosphorous:Potassium) ratio like 3:1:6. For a young plant that is just 1 foot tall, provide 1 cup of fertilizer every month (9). Increase this amount to 2 cups when the plant reaches 3 feet, and then 3 cups once the plant reaches 5 feet. Fertilizer can be sprinkled on the soil around the plant, and then watered to allow the nutrients to enter the plant.
Secondary shoots should be pruned, leaving only one healthy shoot for each rhizome. Remove new shoots as they appear. By focusing on one shoot, you’ll increase the growth rate of the tree. Excess shoots only decrease growth rate by drawing energy from the main shoot.
One secondary shoot should be left on the Blue Java banana plant when the main shoot is about six to eight months old. As the shoot develops, it will replace the main shoot the following year. After harvest, cut the main shoot down to about 3 feet.