A beautiful bunch a’ripe banana

bunch red bananasIt’s six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch!

I’ve had “Day-o” (from Beetlejuice, among other places) stuck in my head since 6am when I first heard the fascinating tale of bananas. Do you know where the term “Banana Republic” came from? Did you know that the bananas we eat today aren’t the same fruit people in the 1800’s ate and it won’t be the same as the ones our grandkids will eat? Did you know they were sterile? I didn’t and now that I do, I find it all quite fascinating.

At the ungodly hour of 6am I was on my way to our call centre with my boss Roger (who is Superman and therefore doesn’t need sleep and therefore likes 7am meetings). This is when I was enlightened about the beautiful banana, it’s sorted past and red future.

Bananas have been around for ages. There’s evidence to suggest their cultivation as far back as 5000BC. Some people even believe that it was a banana, not an apple (or a pomegranate as others still claim) that Eve gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Leave something long enough around humans and we will manage to suck the life out of it. In banana’s case, quite literally.

Over the centuries of cross-breeding bananas have lost their natural seeds and are now completely sterile. They are reproduced asexually from offshoots of the banana plant. Because of their poor genetic diversity, bananas are incredibly susceptible to disease. This is how the Gros Michel banana got wiped out in the 19050’s and that’s what’s happening to the Cavendish banana now. Experts predict that by 2020 the pretty yellow bananas of today will be replaced by the Red banana. This new species is a bit shorter, chubbier and sweeter than the ones you and I are used to. Apparently they have a bit of a raspberry tint to their flavour.

So there you have it. Red bananas, or as we’ll soon call them, bananas. Bananas in Pijamas will have to get a skin colourisation procedure (thank god Michael Jackson already pinoneered that one!), monkeys will have to find another fruit that will contrast against their fur so they still look nice in pictures and lemons will have to hang out with yellow bell peppers in the grocery store if they want to blend in.

I can’t be sure that this is the correct podcast that Roger was talking about, but it’s definitely the right subject NPR Banana podcast.

Oh, I just realised I totally skipped over the whole Banana Republic thing. Originally, this term wasn’t really a metaphor. It literally referred to countries dependent on banana agriculture where dictators were quite often supported by banana companies trying to get a cheaper product. It’s evolved to be more encompassing over time. Missed that history lesson…. Who knew the world of fruit can be so crazy?

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Always hungry. Nuts for dogs. Love to travel. I write about marketing, food, web, travel and whatever else strikes my fancy.

4 thoughts on “A beautiful bunch a’ripe banana

  1. yellow bananas gone! oh dear, they are one of the few things my son eats.

    hopefully his apetite is a bit more varied by 2020!

  2. Don’t you just love evolution- or de-evolution as it should probably be called. Ah, I remember the times in Poland when mom would try to feed us bananas, you already liked them back them, but me in my youthful ignorance of their yumminess would covertly leave the room and hide them behind the door in the hall- wait- have I told you that before- CRAP?!

    Anyway, truly interesting topic and well written—dork 😉 (you asked for it!)

  3. The original podcast on which the 6am story was based can be found on:
    http://bit.ly/AT6wO

    The transcript part that talks about the sad tale of the banana republic:
    “Steve: It’s a fascinating artifact of colonial history. Other artifacts of colonial history, they are not even artifacts, they’re still going on. Talk a little bit about the relationship between the banana and Central American politics. I mean, it’s not even a relationship, the banana has been the Central American politics for [a] lot of the century.

    Koeppel: Right and you know, banana companies, in order to keep bananas cheap, had to really control the cost of labor and land. By control, I mean, control. You know, they had to have no cost for labor and land. They have to have slave labor and free land and they had to take over countries and that meant brutal tactics. They had to use the U.S. military and massacres and all sorts of terrible things. Over 20 times, there were interventions whenever there were attempts to unify banana workers or have fair prices for land and these countries that were taken over by banana companies, that’s where the term “banana republic” come[s] from.”

    Very sad really. Part of living in a world where people go nuts because Michael Jackson died. And 35,000 kids die unnecessarily every day without much fuss being made.

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