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Saba banana, also known as Cardaba banana, is a triploid hybrid banana cultivar originating from the Philippines. It is primarily a cooking banana though it can also be eaten raw. It is one of the most important banana varieties in Philippine cuisine.


Saba bananas have very large, robust pseudostems that can reach heights of 20–30 feet (6–9 m). The trunk can reach diameters of 3 feet. The trunk and leaves are dark blue-green in color. Like all bananas, each pseudostem flowers and bears fruits only once before dying. Each mat bears about eight suckers.[1][2][3]

The fruits become ready for harvesting 150 to 180 days after flowering, longer than other banana varieties. Each plant has a potential yield of 26 to 28 kg per bunch. There are typically 16 hands per bunch, with each hand having 12 to 20 fingers.[3]

Saba bananas grow best in well-drained fertile soils with full sun exposure. They inherit most of the characteristics of Musa balbasiana, making them tolerant of dry soil and colder conditions of temperate climates. They require minimum rainfall and can survive long dry seasons as long as adequate irrigation is provided. However, their fruits may not ripen under such conditions. They also have good resistance against Sigatoka leaf spot diseases.[2]

The fruits are 8 to 13 cm long and 2.5 to 5.5 cm in diameter. Depending on the ripeness, the fruits are distinctively squarish and angular. The flesh is white and starchy, making it ideal for cooking. They are usually harvested while still green after 150 to 180 days after planting, especially if they are to be transported over long distances.[3]

Taxonomy and nomenclature

The Saba Banana is a triploid (ABB) hybrid of the seeded banana Musa balbisiana and Musa acuminata.[1]

Its official designation is Musa acuminata × balbisiana (ABB Group) ‘Saba’.

Synonyms include:

  • Musa × paradisiaca L. cultigroup Plantain cv. ‘Saba’
  • Musa sapientum L. var. compressa (Blanco) N.G.Teodoro

Saba is known in English as Saba, Cardaba, Sweet plantain, Compact banana, and Papaya banana. Saba is also known by other common names like the following:

  • Filipino: Saba, Sab-a, Cardaba
  • Javanese (Bali): Biu gedang saba
  • Malaysian: Pisang Nepah
  • Indonesian: Pisang Kepok
  • Thai: Kluai Hin
  • Hawaiian: Opu-’ulu, Dippig[4]

Wild triploid Musa balbisiana bananas (Musa balbisiana (BBB Group) ‘Cardaba’) are also called ‘Cardaba’ in the Philippines.[1]


Saba bananas are one of the most important bananas in the Philippines.[5] The fruits provide the same nutritional value as potatoes.[3] They can be eaten raw or cooked into various traditional Filipino desserts and dishes like Maruya, Turrón, Halo-halo and Ginanggang. It is also popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in dishes like Pisang Aroma (similar to the Filipino Turrón) and Pisang goreng (fried bananas).

Saba is also processed into a Filipino condiment known as Banana ketchup, invented by the Filipino food technologist and war heroine Maria Y. Orosa (1893–1945). The dark red inflorescence of Saba (banana hearts, locally known in the Philippines as “Puso ng Saba“) are edible. The waxy, green leaves are also used as traditional wrappings of native dishes in Southeast Asia. Fibers can also be taken from the trunk and leaves and used to manufacture ropes, mats, and sacks.

Saba bananas are also cultivated as ornamental plants and shade trees for their large size and showy coloration.

Pests and diseases

In comparison to most other types of cooking bananas, Saba bananas are highly resistant to black sigatoka (Mycosphaerella fifiensis) and are more tolerant of drought conditions and soil nutrient deficiencies. As such, they are viewed as a possible source for breeding new hybrid cultivars to replace more susceptible cooking banana cultivars grown today (in particular, the threatened East African Highland bananas).[6]

Common pests

  • Fruit scarring beetles
  • Banana thrips
  • Mealy bug
  • Banana aphids
  • Corm weevil
  • Borers
  • Root Nematodes
  • Grasshoppers
  • Hoes

Common diseases

  • Panama disease/Fusarium Wilt
  • Sigatoka
  • Moko or Bacterial Wilt
  • Black leaf streak
  • Banana Bunchy Top disease


Written on June 6th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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