A new growing method has resulted in a banana with an edible peel and a possible solution to food shortages
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First there was ruby chocolate and silent snacks for eating at the movies, now there is a the Mongee (pronounced ‘mon-gay’) banana – a banana with edible skin. The Mongee (the name means ‘incredible’) is grown by D&T Farm, in Japan’s Okayama Prefecture, using the ‘freeze-thaw’ method, which mimics the temperatures and growing conditions of the ice age. Unlike today, when bananas are a tropical fruit, ice age banana plants endured long periods of hibernation and grew in temperatures as low as 12 or 13°C. To recreate the environment from 20,000 years ago, farmers at D&T first freeze the banana saplings to -60°C, then thaw them out and replant them. The temperature changes encourage the seedlings to grow very rapidly, and results in a much sweeter, and 100 percent edible, fruit. An added bonus is that the freeze-thaw method does not involve pesticides or genetic modification.
Although the Mongee bananas reach maturity in about four months (as opposed to the two years it takes ordinary bananas to grow), the process is very involved and only around 10 bananas go on sale in Okayama each week. The bananas are very expensive – around USD 7.50 per fruit. According to D&T, the peels are high in vitamin B6, magnesium, and tryptophan, a constituent of serotonin, which aids in sleep.
The Mongee bananas have attracted the interest of various companies including agriculture multinational Dole Foods. In addition to bananas, D&T has successfully grown and harvested papaya, cacao, mangosteen and cashew nuts using the same method. The company ultimately hopes to develop improved varieties of wheat, soybeans, and corn through freeze-thaw awakening, for cultivation in Siberia and other cold climates. Will a new breeding method that enables bananas to grow rapidly in cool temperatures one day eliminate food shortages?