Wageningen University: First Dutch bananas end up as cakes, vegan meat and lingerie

Around 1,600 brand new bananas grown on Dutch soil were harvested yesterday in the greenhouse of Neder Banaan in Ede. In this greenhouse, researchers from WUR work together with Neder Banaan on new cultivation methods and banana varieties that contribute to more sustainable banana cultivation worldwide. The harvested Dutch bananas are used as an ingredient for banana cakes and a new speciality beer. But the trunk and the banana peels are not wasted either: the peels are made into a vegan meat substitute and the trunk fibres are processed into lingerie and transport pallets.

The Neder Banaan greenhouse is the first and only banana greenhouse in the Netherlands. In the greenhouse, bananas are grown in an innovative way. The banana plants are not grown in soil, but in pots with substrate, made from coconut fibres. Lifting banana plants from soil prevents attacks by a handful of enemies such as soil-born fungi, bacteria and nematodes.

Saving the bananas
These fungi, such as Fusarium, the cause of Fusarium wilt or Panama disease, pose a global threat to banana cultivation. WUR has therefore been exploring and researching new cultivation methods and banana varieties for years. This is taking place under the guidance of Gert Kema, Professor of Phytopathology and spiritual father of the Neder Banaan. The knowledge the research generates is shared globally. “If we do not develop new banana varieties and cultivation methods, the banana will perish”, says Kema. “For consumers in the West, this may be bearable, but for more than 400 million people in the tropics, the banana is their main source of nutrition. For many farmers in the tropics, it is also an indispensable source of income. Therefore, we really need to take action.”

Mini eclairs and banana beer
Most of the Dutch bananas from the greenhouse in Ede will soon end up in mini eclairs, small banana cakes and a special beer made from bananas. These products will be distributed to catering companies, hotels and care homes.

Peels on a bun
But it is not just the fruit of the banana that is used. Innovative companies that cooperate with Neder Banaan will utilise the banana peels and plants on which the bananas grow. The peels are marinated and fried by the company Banana Business. This creates ‘Pulled Peel’, a vegan meat substitute that is delicious in salads and on sandwiches. Musa Intimates makes lingerie out of fibres extracted from the stems of the banana plant, and Yellow Pallet presses fibres into transport pallets: an environmentally friendly wood substitute.

From waste to raw material
“By using waste streams, less in the way of new raw materials is needed”, explains Pieter Vink, Director of Neder Banaan. “Of course, we are innovating on a small scale, but worldwide, there are enormous volumes of plants and banana peels that currently end up as waste. We hope that our innovations inspire banana growers worldwide and contribute to a more sustainable sector.”