Many banana lovers are quick to banish those strange stringy bits that emerge when peeling the fruit, but there are a few good reasons you should savor these strands. Known as phloem bundles, these stringy bits are perfectly edible and surprisingly nutritious.
They might be mildly radioactive, but bananas are packed full of goodness. As per the USDA, one medium banana provides just under 100 calories, plus a load of essential nutrients such as fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and manganese, as well as various antioxidants and phytonutrients.
The phloem bundles are no different. The phloem is essentially the internal plumbing of a plant, acting as tubes to pump the sugars and other products of photosynthesis around to wherever they are wanted. These tubes need to be especially sturdy to perform this important task, so they’re formed of more complex types of fiber compared to the rest of the banana.
“Although we have not specifically tested phloem bundles, it is likely that there would be a difference in its nutritional value. Since they are intended to do a specific job, and as such likely have a defined structure which supports that job, they would be expected to have a different compound profile to the regular edible banana flesh,” Nicholas D. Gillitt, Chief Scientific Officer at BerkleyRD and former vice president of nutrition research and director at the Dole Nutrition Institute, told Huffington Post in January 2023.
“They likely contain more and varied types of fiber and structural components required for their function. Because of this, they probably would have a different nutritional profile for humans,” Gillitt added.
It isn’t just picky humans that have an aversion to banana strings. Viral videos have shown that many monkeys also peel away the strands when peeling a banana. Then again, bananas are a cultivated domesticated plant, so wild monkeys never actually encounter bananas at all ever unless they are around human settlements where bananas have been grown.
The same is true for banana skins. Although they’re very tough and bitter, they are edible and also rich in several key nutrients.
If the idea of munching down on peels seems pretty unappetizing to you (we don’t blame you), a good way to avoid wasting banana skins is to place them in water for a couple of days. This will allow some of the nutrients to steep into the water, making it an excellent drink for indoor plants.