If you are a commercial grower, the best banana for you will likely be a variety that looks good, ships well and lasts a long time on the shelf. If you are a home gardener, however, you might be looking for cooking bananas, sweet bananas, bananas with unusual flavor, bananas that fit a small space, or bananas that can a take little cold weather or wind. Of the hundreds of varieties of bananas grown around the world, there are a handful of cultivars that are most popular for different kinds of needs.
Best Commercial Producers
The Robusta has largely replaced the Lacatan and the Gros Michel in the Caribbean and Central America. It is resistant to Panama disease, but prone to leaf spot. It is being grown commercially in Australia, Brazil, Fiji and Samoa.
The Giant Cavendish is grown commercially in Taiwan and has replaced the dwarf species of the same banana in Australia, Columbia, Hawaii and on some Caribbean islands. Like the dwarf variety, it can survive cold and the wind.
The Pisang masak hijau, or Bungulan, is a Cavandish clone grown commercially in Indonesia, Malaya and the Philippines. It is tall, slender plant that is easily damaged by wind. Its fruits ripen unevenly and spoil easily in storage.
The Mysore constitutes 70 percent of the bananas grown commercially in India. It is also grown in Burma, Ceylon and Thailand. This is a large, vigorous banana that resists disease. The bright yellow fruit is medium-sized and has a slightly acid flavor.
The red banana, also called Colorado, Red Cuban, or Red Spanish banana, likely originated in India, but is now grown around the world. It is resistant to disease. Its firm, cream-colored flesh tastes good. The purplish-red peel changes to an orange-yellow.
Best for Cooking
The Orinoco, also called the Burro, Hog, or horse banana, can be eaten raw, but it is better baked, fried or boiled.
The Bluggoe is a starchy cooking banana that is resistant to leaf spot and Panama disease. It is widely grown in Burma, East Africa, Grenada, Southern India, the Philippines, Samoa and Thailand.
What is called the ice cream banana in Hawaii is called Cenizo in the Caribbean and Central America and Krie in the Philippines. This pale yellow banana is usually cooked, but it can also be eaten raw.
The Fehi banana of Hawaii and Polynesia is a starchy, sometimes seedy banana with an orange or copper-colored skin that is good boiled or roasted.
The popular cooking plantain is also called the Chato, Curdrado or Topocho. The commercial cultivars are the Pelipita and the Saba, which is popular in Asia
Best Dessert Banana
The Lady Finger is a small, sweet banana, four to five inches long. In Spanish, it is called Datil, Dedo de Dama, Nino, Bocadillo, Guenco Blanco and Manices. It found throughout Latin America and is grown commercially in Australia. It is resistant to drought, black weevil and Panama disease, but is subject to leaf spot.
Plump, sweet Silk bananas, from four to six inches long, have a taste that resembles that of an apple. It is widely distributed in the subtropics and tropics but is not grown commercially.
Best for Landscaping
If you have a small space, you might want a dwarf hybrid. You can also mix the tall with the short, depending on your taste and the size of your garden.
Short bananas that grow to about 4 feet tall include the super dwarf Cavendish, the dwarf red, the Glenn and the dwarf nino.
The dwarf Cavandish grows to six feet tall. Orinoco and the raja puni grow to about eight feet tall.
Bananas that grow from 15 to 20 feet tall include the ice cream, praying hands, Orinoco, mysore, misiluki, the dwarf Brazilian (about 15 feet tall) and the Brazilian (about 20 feet tall).
Best at Surviving Cold
If you live in Central Florida or other areas where the temperature sometimes dive, you need a banana that can tolerate cold. If you bring bananas inside during the winter, they won't produce fruit because they don't get enough warm days.
The Brazilian, dwarf Brazilian, Glenn, ice cream, Orinoco, dwarf Orinoco, and praying hands bananas can tolerate the cold in sub-tropical growing zones.