"" Writer's Wanderings: Bananas Have A History

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bananas Have A History

One of the more interesting and fun talks we listened to on our Cuba cruise was about bananas. We were told not to miss it because we'd go bananas for it. Yeah and there were a few more puns along the way. But I found it very interesting. Unfortunately I didn't take any notes so I needed to look up some history on the internet in order to post some interesting background on bananas. Inquiring minds want to know after all.

Long, long ago the banana grew in Asia. It managed to move to Africa and eventually to the islands of the Caribbean and Central America thanks to the explorers. They started to become popular around 1834 with their popularity exploding around 1880 as more banana were cultivated and the produce shipped to the east coast of the United States.

The first bananas were more like plantains, not real sweet until cooked. The banana evolved due to the cultivation to try to make it resistant to disease--mainly a fungus that destroyed many banana plants in the early days.

Dole and Chiquita are the top brands today and evolved from earlier companies. Chiquita from the United Fruit Company and Dole from the Standard Fruit Company. Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica became the major producers of bananas.

Banana plants are not trees though they look like palms. They actually are herbs. The stalks or "trunks" are formed by the leaf stalks wrapping around each other. It takes about 9 months for a plant to produce bananas. When the bunch of bananas are harvested, the mother plant dies but small little plants grow from the base. Below the ground is actually a rhizome. The little plants can be separated and transplanted to grow more banana plants.

The leaves are so large that our speaker said she believed that Adam and Eve would have gotten better coverage if they'd chosen banana leaves rather than fig.

But the really interesting thing we learned about bananas was that, in the beginning, people weren't sure how to eat them. For that information, they turned to monkeys. Yes, I said monkeys. Monkeys take the banana and instead of starting with the stem end, they start at the other end. So if you pinch the end opposite the stem and peal back the skin, you can use the stem as a handle while you eat.

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