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The Only Reason Bananas Have Strings Attached

Smash them, fry them, bake them, or eat them whole – bananas have an unmistakably unique taste that people love. Even when they’re overripe, we can find a way to use them up.  One part that many people subconsciously avoid, however, is those freaking strings.

There’s just something about them. You peel a banana and they get stuck on your fingers, clinging to you or your fruit like a sticky spider’s web. Sometimes you might play a game to see if you can peel a whole banana without detaching them from the skin. Don’t feel silly, kids do it too. And does anyone out there actually eat them on purpose?

Well, those strings have names. And they have a valuable function too. Called phloem bundles, they help to deliver nutrients. Listen to the video to hear a nice scientific definition of what they do. Essentially, they are sort of like an umbilical cord, transporting food to growing baby banana bodies.

Image of banana bunches.

Let’s have a tiny biology lesson. Part of the banana’s vascular system, the strands appear alongside xylem bundles while the plant is developing. While the phloem bundles are responsible for food, xylem handles water. Both are considered two major parts of a complex tissue system that ensures a plant grows properly. Who remembers learning about this in junior high?

To really break things down for us curious humans, HuffPost published an interview with Dr. Nicholas D. Gillit, a VP and nutrition director for Dole. In it he explained that the strings probably have a different nutritional value than the flesh of bananas. Though phloem bundles haven’t been tested, Dr. Gillit stated that they are likely to be a source of fiber – which is something that we all need.

The biggest question had to do with whether or not we should eat them. Yes we can, though the doctor admitted that it’s a choice based on how we regard the taste. In his experience, no one has ever complained about their existence:

“In general, Dole has not received any meaningful consumer complaints on phloem bundles. From a scientist’s perspective — who has conducted several clinical trials with hundreds of subjects eating large quantities of bananas during studies — I can categorically state I have not been made aware of one instance where a subject thought these phloem bundles were bothersome.”

For those of you who have labeled these strands as a wicked and evil presence, you may now decide to soften your stance. Now that we’re sure you’ll never look at a banana the same again, here’s another bomb: bananas come from herb plants. It’s technically a herb. But that is a Q&A for another day, folks.

Watch the video below to gain some banana phloem knowledge and to hear more about Dr. Gillit’s interview. You can file this one under “I Learned Something New Today” and continue to enjoy bananas by the bunch.