Farmers in Japan have called on the ancient DNA of a specially bred banana, to create a remarkable version of the fruit with a totally edible skin. The technique recreates conditions present at the end of the ice age around 20,000 years ago, when plants would emerge from harsh winter temperatures to grow.
Bananas typically take two years to grow large enough for consumption, but the method lowers that time to just four months. However, the innovation doesn’t come cheap, with only 10 of the rare sweet treats going on sale each week at an eye-watering 648 yen (£4.20 / $5.70).
The Mongee Banana is grown by D&T Farm in Japan’s Okayama Prefecture, where it is sold on the fruit counter of department store Tenmanya Okayama.
The first crop of the plant, which is organically grown and GMO free, successfully emerged in November.
Bananas are typically grown in tropical climates, but Mongee are cultivated using a ‘Freeze Thaw Awakening’ method that draws on the fruit’s ancient past.
Following the end of the ice age, plants would awaken from a long winter hibernation as temperatures rose gradually. Maximum daytime temperatures were only 12 to 13°C and during the night, the mercury dropped below zero. D&T Farm recreated these conditions by freezing Banana saplings to -60°C, planting them again once thawed. This encourages them to grow rapidly, even in Japan’s relatively cool climate.
The resulting Mongee bananas are sweeter than their tropical relatives, containing 24.8g of sugar compared to an average 18.3g in a regular banana.
Japan imports 99 per cent of its bananas, so this home grown variety is somewhat of a luxury, making up part of the one per cent on the island. This is reflected in the fruit’s name, pronounced mon-gay in the local dialect, which is Okayama slang for ‘incredible’.
In a written statement on its website, a spokesman for D&T Farm said: ‘Banana peel is an excellent ingredient that can contain vitamin B6 and magnesium related to the synthesis of serotonin.
‘At the same time, rich in substances called “tryptophan” which is a raw material of serotonin, which stabilizes the mind and has sleeping action.
‘Research results that ripe fruit peels have inhibitory effect on prostatic hypertrophy has also been published.’
Source: The Daily Mail