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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