The superfruit that may end starvation, blindness

A tomato is a fruit (but legally a vegetable), an eggplant is a berry, and a strawberry is not a berry, but an avocado is and…this is all very difficult to keep up with. While technical definitions of fruit (er, vegetables?) may be hard to understand, there are some things that are pretty easy. A strawberry is red, an eggplant is purple, a banana is yellow.

Except, of course, for when it isn’t.

A decade in the making, we may soon see a very strange type of fruit making headlines: an orange banana. No, we’re not talking about a citrus-banana hybrid, but a banana that is actually the color orange.

The orange banana is part of research from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. The new product is rich in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in the body. The reasoning behind the development? Starving children in Uganda, suffering from vitamin A deficiencies.

The lack of vitamin A in these children have caused many to go blind or die.

This new superfruit could be the answer to prayers in the country, where about 70% of the population survives on a particular type of banana that has low levels of micronutrients. But it has to go through human testing first, which is just what it is about to do.

Trials are now being conducted at Iowa State University (ISU); researchers there say that the superfruit could be grown by farmers in Uganda as early as 2020.

The orange bananas deviate from the ordinary ones we’re used to seeing in their high beta-carotene levels. These levels are reached by being grown in the far northern regions of Queensland. Additionally, the regular banana has been crossbred with the “karat” from Micronesia, which has orange flesh. The karat is known to help improve eyesight in children.

Trials at ISU will take place through the end of the year; if all goes well, Ugandans will have access to the fruit within a few short years.

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