Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nature Writing, An Inspiring Interview on "To the Best of My Knowledge"

"Flash", 52" x 71", oil over egg tempera with 22kt gold leaf, 22kt moon gold, 22kt white gold on panel
by Fran Hardy copyright

I chose the painting "Flash" above for this post because it captures to me those incredibly wild moments in the tropics when nature is showing us a 'million of her faces' at once. This painting was shown at the gallery I used to show with in NYC on Madison Ave (now closed with the recession) at my solo show there. I had a collector come in and say she had come to the show because of how disturbing this piece was and that all these things could not possible be taking place at one time. Someone else said 'You have not spent time in Florida then'. I think it captures an essential wildness that despite our technology and early warning systems for storms we still are totally unable to tame. Thank goodness man still has to cope with the untamed.
I haven't had a moment to blog lately as I am so busy with our Creative-Native Project, grant writing etc.
I will write about what it means to try to juggle all these balls and survive as a creative individual in our society in my next blogpost, "Herding Cats and Changing Hats".
But in the meantime go to the link above and listen to a very inspiring interview with David Gessner who talks about his recent book "My Green Manifesto, Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism". He talks about how connecting with nature is not always about the pristine, the simple but an interior wildness and an acceptance of the 'messiness' of life, nature and in ourselves. The most moving moment in the interview for me was when he talked about holding his father's hand as he died and feeling an intense feeling of the wild as his father passed. He didn't feel that again until he held his new-borne daughter, covered in blood and fluid after she was born via C-Section. This wildness, I think is what we are afraid to touch into and yet attracted to with an unknown and unknowing fascination. Maybe that is what I want to find through my work as an artist?  Please feel free to comment on how you feel about wildness and what it means in your life, artist or otherwise.....

Friday, September 30, 2011

"In a Brilliant Light" now on you tube

"Night Bloom", 28" x 20", oil over egg tempera on panel with 22kt gold leaf
by Fran Hardy copyright
I spent quite a few years doing the luminous technique of oil over egg tempera, an early renaissance technique developed by Van Eyck. The first documentary that Bob and I collaborated on was about my work with this technique and my fantasy paintings inspired by the tropical flora I saw in Florida. I talk about the technique and important experiences from my childhood in Florida with my grandparents who were both great lovers of beauty and nature. The documentary aired at museums in conjunction with a traveling show of my work as well as on PBS stations and FEC-TV, a national educational channel.
Bob has just installed it on you tube so that those of you who did not have the opportunity to see it or would like to view it again can. It is in two parts. Enjoy!     Part One of "In a Brilliant Light"     Part Two of "In a Brilliant Light"

Some of the venues for my traveling exhibition were:
 The Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, FL.
The Mayor's Gallery,  Leu Gardens, Orlando, FL
The Foosaner Art Museum, Melbourne, FL
22nd Floor Capitol Gallery, Tallahassee, FL
The Gulf Coast Museum of Art Largo, FL
Uptown Gallery, Madison Avenue, NYC
Kingdon Alan Gallery, St. Petersburg, FL

Tempera is traditionally created by hand-grinding dry powdered pigments into a binding agent or medium, such as egg, glue, honey, water, milk (in the form of casein) and a variety of plant gums.
Tempera painting starts with placing a small amount of the pigment paste onto a palette, dish or bowl and adding about an equal volume of the binder and mixing. Some pigments require slightly more binder, some require less. Distilled water is added.

[edit]Egg tempera

The most common form of classical tempera painting is "egg tempera". For this form most often only the contents of the egg yolk is used. The white of the egg and the membrane of the yolk are discarded (the membrane of the yolk is dangled over a receptacle and punctured to drain off the liquid inside).
The paint mixture has to be constantly adjusted to maintain a balance between a "greasy" and "watery" consistency by adjusting the amount of water and yolk. As tempera dries, the artist will add more water to preserve the consistency and to balance the thickening of the yolk on contact with air. Once prepared, the paint cannot be stored. Egg tempera is water resistant, but not water proof.
Different preparations use the egg white or the whole egg for different effect. Other additives such as oil and wax emulsions can modify the medium.

THE FLEMISH TECHNIQUE      The earliest oil painting method evolved from the earlier discipline of egg tempera painting, as an attempt to overcome the difficulties and limitations inherent in that medium. As this took place initially in Flanders, the method is referred to as the Flemish Technique. Essential to this method of painting are a rigid surface primed pure white, and a very precise line drawing. The Flemish painted on wood panels primed with a glue chalk ground, which caused the transparent passages to glow with warmth from beneath the surface of the paint. As this method did not easily accommodate corrections once the painting was under way, it was necessary to work out the idea for the picture with studies done on separate surfaces.
       The completed drawing was then transferred to the white panel by perforating the "cartoon", or a tracing of it, along its lines, then positioning it over the panel and slapping it with a pounce bag, or sock filled with charcoal dust. The stencil was then removed, and the drawing finished freehand. Another method for the transfer was to cover one side of a piece of tracing paper with charcoal, or with a thin layer of pigment and varnish or oil, which was then allowed to become tacky, and use it as one might use carbon paper. Once the drawing was transferred to the primed panel and completed, its lines were gone over with ink or very thin paint, either egg tempera, distemper (glue tempera), watercolor or oil, applied with a pen or small, pointed, sable brush, and allowed to dry. The drawing was then isolated, and the absorbency of the gesso sealed, by a layer of varnish. Sometimes a transparent toner was added to this layer of varnish, which was then called an imprimatura. The tone of the imprimatura set the key for the painting, making the harmonization of the colors easier, and allowing for more accurate judgment of values. A field of white primer tends to make everything applied to it appear darker than it is, until the white is completely covered, at which time the darks are sometimes seen to be too light. And when the darks are too light, generally the rest of the tones are too light as well. By toning the isolating varnish (a warm tone was most commonly used), to a tone somewhat darker than white, this problem could be avoided or minimized.
       Once the isolating varnish or imprimatura was dry, painting commenced with the application of transparent glazes for the shadows. The paints used by the early Flemish practitioners were powdered pigments ground in walnut or linseed oil. There is widespread speculation regarding whether other ingredients, such as resins, balsams, and/or various polymerized oils were added, and the issue is not yet resolved as of this writing. All opinions on this subject must be understood to be guesswork until scientific analyses have been completed on enough paintings from this era to settle the issue. It is likely, though not definitely established, that the brushing characteristics of the paints might have been altered to a long molecular configuration by the addition of boiled or sun-thickened oils, and possibly balsams such as Strasbourg Turpentine or Venice Turpentine, and/or resins. Strasbourg Turpentine, sap from the firs growing in and around what is today Alsace Lorraine and elsewhere in Europe, is similar to Venice Turpentine but clearer and faster drying. Balsams and polymerized oils add an enamel like consistency to oil paint, changing its structure to a long molecular configuration. Long paint is easier to control than short paint, especially with soft hair brushes on a smooth painting surface, as in the Flemish Technique. Brushes used by the early Flemish oil painters were primarily soft hair rounds. Some were pointed at the tip; some were rounded, and some flat. Hog-bristle brushes were also used for certain purposes, such as scrubbing the paint on in thin layers for glazing and other effects. Painting commenced with the laying in of shadows and other dark shapes with transparent paint. In this method, the painting is carried as far along as possible while the paint is wet, but is usually not finished in one sitting. Large areas of color are applied after the shadows are laid in, and worked together at the edges. These middletone colors may be either transparent, opaque, or somewhere in between, depending on the artist's preference. The highlights are added last, and are always opaque. Several subsequent overpaintings may be applied after the initial coat is dry, if desired. Some Flemish artists also employed an underpainting of egg tempera, or egg oil emulsion paint, to help establish the forms before painting over them in oils.
       The Flemish method, in summary, consists of transparent shadows and opaque highlights, over a precise line drawing, on wood panels primed pure white. The painting medium may possibly contain a resin and/or balsam, which increases clarity and gloss, or a combination of a polymerized oil with a raw oil, which takes on the most desirable characteristics of a resin when used together (i.e., sun-thickened linseed or walnut oil, plus raw linseed or walnut oil, mixed together), without the defects of natural resins. The innovations are the use of oil paint and the technique of glazing with transparent color. A glossy varnish is applied at least six months after completion. Paintings are generally limited to smaller sizes, due to the difficulties involved in constructing, priming, and transporting wooden panels of greater dimensions. It had its limitations, but was a vast improvement over egg tempera, both in ease of execution and in the beauty of the final result.
       Although it originated in Flanders, word quickly spread of the marvels of oil painting, and it was soon adopted by the German artist Albrecht Dürer, who is known to have traveled to Flanders and to Italy, and by Antonello da Messina, who studied in Flanders, according to Vasari. Giovanni Bellini then learned it from Antonello, and taught it to Giorgione and Titian. The Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden, who was adept at painting in oils, came to Italy around 1449 and influenced a number of Italian artists, including Piero della Francesca. The use of oil as a painting medium was adopted cautiously by some, and derided by others, as anything new always seems to create controversy. Michelangelo refused to paint in oils, and reportedly ridiculed Leonardo for adopting it. Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) recognized its merits, and soon added several innovations of his own.

Friday, September 9, 2011

TreeBeard lives in the Tallgrass Prairie

"TreeBeard Lives in the Tallgrass Prairie", 44" x 36", colored pencil on acrylic ground on panel
by Fran Hardy copyright

When we finished our interview with Bob Hamilton, director of the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, he said to make sure we saw TreeBeard on our way out. That was what he named a huge old cottonwood tree that had burned in one of the controlled burns that keep the prairie as grassland. The prairies used to burn frequently from lightening strikes and the native americans who set them ablaze to keep the land healthy for the bison and other large game. Without fire the prairies would become woods. The Tallgrass will be about seven feet tall by the fall and walking through it all one can see is grasses and sky above. It is a majestic experience. There used to be vast areas of prairie but now most of it has been used for agriculture. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and other prairie habitats that have been preserved gives us a taste of what a large part of the central United States used to be like. 
The cottonwood that inspired TreeBeard had been burnt so that the whole center was hollowed out by fire, making him look like a walking creature. Bob Hamilton named him TreeBeard after  the character from Tolkein's 'Two Towers'. He saw him in the movie. I remembered him from the books which my father read me before I was young enough to read. This was well before his books became popular and there were no illustrations, so I made my own and we inserted them in the books.  
Here is a picture of Bob shooting and Daniel Lay taking production stills of the tree that inspired my painting. This gives you a glimpse of how I change the actual to the imaginary.

For more information on the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve see the link above.

The tallgrass prairie is an ecosystem native to central North America, with fire as its primary periodic disturbance. In the past, tallgrass prairiescovered a large portion of the American Midwest, just east of the Great Plains, and portions of the Canadian Prairies. They flourished in areas with rich loess soils and moderate rainfall of around 760 to 890 mm (30 to 35 in) per year. To the east were the fire-maintained eastern savannas. In the northeast, where fire was infrequent and periodic windthrow represented the main source of disturbance, beech-maple forestsdominated. In contrast, shortgrass prairie was typical in the western Great Plains, where rainfall is less frequent and soils are less fertile.
As its name suggests, the most obvious features of the tallgrass prairie are tall grasses, such as indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), which average between 1.5 and 2 m (4.9 and 6.6 ft) tall, with occasional stalks as high as 2.5 to 3 m (8.2 to 9.8 ft). Prairies also include a large percentage of forbs, such as lead plant (Amorpha spp.), prairie rosinweed (Silphium terebinthinaceum), and coneflowers.
The tallgrass prairie biome depends upon prairie fires, a form of wildfire, for its survival and renewal.[1] Tree seedlings and intrusive alien species without fire-tolerance are eliminated by periodic fires. Such fires may either be set by humans (for example, Native Americans used fires to drive bison and improve hunting, travel, and visibility) or started naturally by lightning. Researchers' attempts to re-establish small sections of tallgrass prairie in arboretum fashion were unsuccessful until they began to use controlled burns.
Technically, prairies have less than 5-11%[clarification needed] tree cover[citation needed]. A grass-dominated plant community with 10-49% tree cover is a savanna.
Due to accumulation of loess and organic matter, parts of the North American tallgrass prairie had the deepest topsoil recorded. After the steel plough was invented by John Deere, this fertile soil became one of America's most important resources. Over 99% of the original tallgrass prairie is now farmland. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

UNM Landarts Program

Catherine Harris and I at the Fodder Project

In 2000, Bill Gilbert started the Landarts Program at University of New Mexico. The students explore human interventions on the land from prehistoric to the present. Their most recent focus is sustainability in the southwest especially relating to food production and water use. These are issues that have shaped this land historically. Drought and famine and possibly disease are thought by some to have caused New Mexico's magnificent Chaco Canyon and the very advanced society that either lived at or used that site, with its ruins of an extensive compound of buildings,  to have been extinguished. It is a place of historical mystery that can be palpably felt when you visit. 
Here is a link to read more about this innovative program. Students can now receive an MFA in Art and Ecology. This quote from the site gives you a sense of the diversity of places they visit.
Each year the Land Arts program travels extensively throughout the southwestern United States and north central Mexico to live and work for over fifty days on the land. Our time is divided between investigating cultural sites such as Chaco Canyon, Roden Crater, Hoover Dam, Wendover Complex of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Juan Mata Ortiz, Spiral Jetty and the Very Large Array and working in the variety of eco-niches provided by our campsites at places such as the Grand Canyon, Grand Gulch, Gila Wilderness, Bosque del Apache and Otero Mesa Grasslands. Our current focus is on the issues of sustainability with a particular interest in food production and water use in the southwest.

The students are presently on one of their trips across the southwest if you would like to 
follow their journeys on their blog.

Here is another blog link that follows the students adventures in Australia this past summer.
That is a trip I would have loved to have been on. They have such a different perspective and itinerary than the average traveler. 

The Art and Ecology students husk a variety of types of corn to make their own homemade corn bread.

We met up with a group of Landarts students, instructors Catherine Harris and Jeanette Hart-Mann at the Fodder Project Collaborative Farm last year, to shoot some footage for our grant proposal to the New Mexico Arts Council, which we will be presenting this January. We always try to feature at least one innovative educational program that emphasizes art and ecology in each of our Creative-Native Project documentaries. The students were learning about growing and creating their own food at the farm that Jeanette Hart-Mann, her husband and two children live on. Jeanette and her family are very involved with permaculture, sustainability and education and are living the experience on their farm in Anton Chico.
Jeanette in their garden

Catherine Harris in the bountiful organic garden

Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in naturalecologies. The word 'permaculture' was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren as a contraction of permanent (sustainable) and agriculture.
Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect while minimizing wasted energy. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.
Permaculture as a systematic method was developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications.
The intent is that, by training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements: ones that reduce society's reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth's ecosystems.
While originating as an agroecological design theory, permaculture has developed a large international following. This "permaculture community" continues to expand on the original ideas, integrating a range of ideas of alternative culture, through a network of publications, permaculture gardens, intentional communities, training programs, and internet forums. In this way, permaculture has become a form of architecture of nature and ecology as well as an informal institution of alternative social ideals.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reverie on Peaches

"Redhaven", watercolor by Fran Hardy copyright
Private Collection

My sister, Joan Hardy wrote this about peaches  in an email to me so I decided to dedicate this blog post to her and how she has inspired me to wax eloquent about peaches.
"We've been having our delicious local fresh peaches at the Brookline farmers market.  My favorite summer food when they are just picked that morning.  God really outdid Herself when she created peaches, I think!"

As the days are growing shorter and summer is drawing to a close peaches are in their last glorious throes and they bring back many memories of summers past for me. When we lived on our farm in western Pennsylvania about twenty years ago I did this watercolor called "Redhaven" named after my favorite variety of peaches, grown by a neighbor, who had a wonderful hilltop orchard with spectacular views of the rolling country. He grew the best peaches I have ever tasted. I bought large quantities from him and we ate the juice dripping peaches to our heart's content. I also made peach pie and peach ice cream. What a mouth-watering culinary feast of summer's bounty. I noticed as Ron gently filled the baskets of peaches for me, how carefully he handled them. If peaches are not handled with care brown spots show up later as they are very delicate. His were always just ripe and smelled redolently of summer sun. If peaches don't have their sweet smell it is a warning that they will be mealy and tasteless. Ron's peaches were never that way. In a drought year they were so much smaller and I realized the importance of moisture in such a juicy fruit. But even then, Ron's peaches were the best I had ever tasted. One winter was exceptionally cold and many of the trees were damaged and Ron decided to cut down his peach orchard. That was so sad, but Ron had gotten married (which was not sad) and the peaches were so much work to grow, he no longer felt that he had the time. I will always remember those luscious peaches. We got some very good peaches at our local food coop and it brought back memories of those Redhavens and summers on our farm.

In the watercolor "Redhaven" , I really 'scrubbed' the heavy d'Arches watercolor paper when I was painting the peaches to give them that fuzzy peach skin effect. I love the deep shades of red, orange and yellow in a ripe redhaven peach. I have to agree with my sister, what amazing color and form that gives us a glimpse into what the experience of eating a peach can be. Who designed this marvel??????

The peach tree (Prunus persica) is a species of Prunus native to China that bears an edible juicy fruit called a peach.[1] It is a deciduous treegrowing to 4–10 m (13–33 ft) tall, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus within the genus Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.
The leaves are lanceolate, 7–16 cm (2.8–6.3 in) long, 2–3 cm (0.79–1.2 in) broad, pinnately veined. The flowers are produced in early spring before the leaves; they are solitary or paired, 2.5–3 cm diameter, pink, with five petals. The fruit has yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some commercial varieties, especially when green. The single, large seed is red-brown, oval shaped, approximately 1.3–2 cm long, and is surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peaches, along with cherriesplums and apricots, are stone fruits (drupes).
The scientific name persica, along with the word "peach" itself and its cognates in many European languages, derives from an early European belief that peaches were native to Persia (now Iran). The modern botanical consensus is that they originate in China, and were introduced to Persia and the Mediterranean region along the Silk Road before Christian times.[2] Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstones and freestones, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not; both can have either white or yellow flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also varies greatly. Both colours often have some red on their skin. Low-acid white-fleshed peaches are the most popular kinds in China, Japan, and neighbouring Asian countries, while Europeans and North Americans have historically favoured the acidic, yellow-fleshed kinds.

The red haven peach – the peach that all other peaches are judged against. In fact, other peach varieties are often listed by how many days before or after they are ready to pick in regards to when red havens are ready. Red havens are ready for picking around the end of July to beginning of August. This is the classic peach that you will find all over the place. It’s a heavy producer which farmers love. They also love it’s long shelf life. It’s the most popular peach planted in Michigan. It is a freestone peach, in that you should be able to remove the inner pit without taking half the peach with it.
The Red Haven was introduced in 1940. It was created by Dr. Stanley Johnston of Michigan State University. It was first grown in South Haven, Michigan. There is a park in South Haven that bears Stanley’s name. His “Haven” series of peaches had a major effect on the peachbusiness in the eastern part of the country.
Overall Feeling: Well not being my favorite peach (Flamin’ Fury is) this is still a top of the line peach. It is juicy with a good peach flavor. It’s a great peach for canning as they are easy to slice up and remove the stone. This peach also works well in cooking applications. It has the acidity that you want.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Just Bananas

Detail of clump of bananas growing and with the flower from "Morning Mist Rising" 
by Fran Hardy Copyright

An interview that Terry Gross did with Dan Koeppel on Fresh Air this morning on his book, "Bananas, The Uncertain Future of a Favorite Fruit" made me think about how enchanted I have been with banana plants, ever since I saw them growing up close and personal in Jamaica in around 1973. Not only were the large leafed plants beguiling but when I saw how the bananas formed on the stalk and the magnificent large and unusual inflorescence, I was inspired. When we moved to Punta Gorda, Florida I went to Echo Nursery in Ft. Myers and saw all the edible fruit plants they carried. Their collection of types of banana trees was extensive. I never knew there were so many luscious and beautiful varieties beyond the standard cavendish banana we get in the stores. Each of their inflorescences was different as were the sizes, colors and tastes of the different types of bananas. There are even apple bananas and ice cream bananas.

Here is information on bananas from Echo Nursery. They are now not selling all the varieties that they grow there because of the threat of  the fungal banana disease "Black Sigatoka" which is not in the United States yet but which biologists feel will be impossible to prevent from reaching here from other countries and which will wipe out the Cavendish bananas we eat here. Cavendish are the ones commercially grown for export because their skin is tough enough to allow them to be shipped.

I grew bananas in our yard in Florida and the wonderfully tasty varieties I grew were too fragile for shipping. The other thing that happens is that you get a huge clump of bananas like the picture above and even the most ardent banana lover can not eat all those bananas before they get over ripe. I made banana bread etc and finally discovered they could be frozen and used as a sweetening base for a fresh fruit sherbet when pureed with other fruits. Scrumptious....of course I gorged on fresh bananas for days when they were ripe. That is a sweet succulent taste treat unlike any store bought banana. 

In the radio interview Dan Koeppel gives a glimpse into the history of how bananas came to be America's most popular fruit. The name banana republic (not the clothing store, but the South American countries) came from the fact that business men decided to make the banana America's most popular fruit by growing them cheaply in South America in order to supplant the apple which can be grown locally.
In order for them to be able to sell bananas cheaply they had to grow and ship them as cheaply as possible. They paid extremely low wages in the countries where they grew them and any country or government that complained was taken over, with American assistance, in order to support the interests of companies like American Fruit. In the interview they said there were literally 22 coups supported secretly by our government making the banana barons very rich. These were the early companies that became Chiquita and Dole. 
To hear a podcast of Terry Gross's interview or read about the fascinating history and story of bananas, that we take for granted will be on our market shelves, go to the link above or buy Dan Koeppel's book. 

Echo is an educational nursery well worth a visit. Here is a brief description of their important mission from their website below:
Our goal is to improve the abilities of international community development workers assisting poor farmers by providing useful, important information and by networking their skills and knowledge with each other. We also provide hard-to-find beneficial food plants and seeds.
ECHO understands that there is a wealth of agricultural knowledge among the poor farmers we seek to assist. As such, ECHO does not "teach" people how to farm. Rather we work to make farmers more effective at growing food producing crops under harsh conditions. 
To read in much more detail about them go to the link above.
"Morning Mist Rising", 80" x 36", oil over egg tempera with 22kt gold leaf on panel
by Fran Hardy copyright

Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes andcolors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red.
Almost all modern edible parthenocarpic bananas come from the two wild species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The scientific names of bananas are Musa acuminataMusa balbisiana or hybrids Musa acuminata × balbisiana, depending on their genomic constitution. The old scientific names Musa sapientum and Musa paradisiaca are no longer used.
Banana is also used to describe Enset and Fe'i bananas, neither of which belong to the Musa genus. Enset bananas belong to the genusEnsete while the taxonomy of Fe'i-type cultivars is uncertain.
In popular culture and commerce, "banana" usually refers to soft, sweet "dessert" bananas. By contrast, Musa cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called plantains or "cooking bananas". The distinction is purely arbitrary and the terms 'plantain' and 'banana' are sometimes interchangeable depending on their usage.
They are native to tropical South and Southeast Asia, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea.[1] Today, they are cultivated throughout the tropics.[2] They are grown in at least 107 countries,[3] primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent to make fiber,banana wine and as ornamental plants.
The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant.[4] The plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy and are often mistaken for trees, but their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem that grows 6 to 7.6 metres (20 to 24.9 ft) tall, growing from a corm. Each pseudostem can produce a single bunch of bananas. After fruiting, the pseudostem dies, but offshoots may develop from the base of the plant. Many varieties of bananas are perennial.
Leaves are spirally arranged and may grow 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) long and 60 cm (2.0 ft) wide.[5] They are easily torn by the wind, resulting in the familiar frond look.[6]
Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the banana heart. (More are sometimes produced; an exceptional plant in the Philippines produced five.)[7] The inflorescence contains many bracts (sometimes incorrectly called petals) between rows of flowers. The female flowers (which can develop into fruit) appear in rows further up the stem from the rows of male flowers. The ovary is inferior, meaning that the tiny petals and other flower parts appear at the tip of the ovary.
The banana fruits develop from the banana heart, in a large hanging cluster, made up of tiers (called hands), with up to 20 fruit to a tier. The hanging cluster is known as a bunch, comprising 3–20 tiers, or commercially as a "banana stem", and can weigh from 30–50 kilograms (66–110 lb). In common usage, bunch applies to part of a tier containing 3-10 adjacent fruits.
Individual banana fruits (commonly known as a banana or 'finger') average 125 grams (0.28 lb), of which approximately 75% is water and 25% dry matter. There is a protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with numerous long, thin strings (the phloem bundles), which run lengthwise between the skin and theedible inner portion. The inner part of the common yellow dessert variety splits easily lengthwise into three sections that correspond to the inner portions of the three carpels.
The fruit has been described as a "leathery berry".[8] In cultivated varieties, the seeds are diminished nearly to non-existence; their remnants are tiny black specks in the interior of the fruit. Bananas grow pointing up, not hanging down.
Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive,[9][10] more so than most other fruits, because of their high potassium content, and the small amounts of the isotope potassium-40 found in naturally occurring potassium.[11] Proponents of nuclear power sometimes refer to the banana equivalent dose of radiation to support their arguments.[12]