Perhaps you’ve seen them and assumed that you weren’t really good at taking the peel off the banana—the equivalent of banana lint. Perhaps you’ve eaten one, unsure of what it was, and wondered why it wasn’t as sweet as the rest of the banana.
I’m talking, of course, about the little string inside of the banana, which is often in the peel, but sometimes on the banana itself. It’s a curio that few people discuss for some reason.
So what the heck is it? To put it simply, it’s the banana’s vascular tissue, a little thing called the "phloem bundle.“ There are a few of them in every banana and they basically work to ensure nutrients travel throughout the banana, so the fruit reaches its full potential. As a passage in the 2016 book Banana: A Global History explains:
“The anatomy of a banana fruit is rather straightforward, with a protective outer layer—the skin or peel—and numerous strings running down the interior fruit lengthwise,” author Lorna Piatti-Farnell wrote. “These strings are known as phloem bundles, an unattractive name that curiously recalls the unpleasant feeling that some experience when encountering a string.”
And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can eat them. Last month, HuffPost asked Nicholas D. Gillitt, the director and VP of nutrition research at the Dole Nutrition Institute, about the curious strings, and he said that while their nutritional value (and flavor) is likely different from the actual banana, you can actually eat them with no problem.
“In general, all parts of fruits are healthy. We eat the skins of apples, pears, etc., and we could eat the skins of bananas—including the phloem bundles—if we find them palatable, but there is no evidence to suggest they are harmful,” Gillitt explained.
So yes, check. Banana strings, or phloem bundles, are an actual thing, and they’re edible. Get to eating your banana peels already.