Monday, April 25, 2011

The State of Bananas

Regular readers will notice that besides my frequent post mentions of cats, poker & politics; bananas show up a bit more often than the mean or mode of civil conversation might suggest. I like bananas, especially a perfectly ripened one. But did you know...

-the Cavendish variety, which accounts for 95%+ of all imports to the U.S. only became the banana of choice around 1950 after a fungus (Panama disease) killed the majority of the stock of the previous market favorite the Gros Michel. What we mostly eat now is the Dwarf or Nain Cavendish and unfortunately not because it is the most flavorful but because it is the right size, easily transported and until very recently disease resistant.

-bananas are either the 4th, 5th or 6th most cultivated crop in the world, but easily the number one fruit. The debate about the "most cultivated" has to do with interpretations about acreage versus output versus 'units of feed'. For instance rice produces a lot of edible tonnage per acre but crops that grow on large plants or trees may actually produce more edible material in the same ground space. The list is basically: wheat, rice, barley, corn, banana, potato.

-bananas, as we all know, are a very good source of dietary potassium; but did you know that the potassium is radioactive? When you hear a white coated talking head mentioning a "banana dose" they are referring to the amount of radioactive isotope potassium-40 found in a single banana.

-India produces the most bananas in the world, around 22 million metric tons but since most of those are consumed in country; we tend to think more bananas are growth in the big exporting nations like Columbia, Honduras and Venezuela. Worldwide 70% of all imported bananas go to the European Union and the U.S.

-I spent a long weekend in Gulfport, Mississippi one winter pre-Katrina. We had a 20th floor balcony view of the gulf and the Chiquita Banana pier. No other product was off-loaded on that pier, which took up to four container ships at a time; day and night the trucks pulled away from the docks with containers full of bananas headed all across the country.


Erin Vang said...

I love bananas. I especially love it that when they're starting to rot they're still useful for making delicious banana bread.

Someone who tended to be right about these things once told me that every banana you ever find in a grocery store (i.e. the ordinary variety) is genetically identical to every other such banana. Can you confirm or deny?

The Shrink said...

"There are well over a thousand domesticated Musa cultivars and their genetic diversity is high, indicating multiple origins from different wild hybrids between two principle ancestral species." Or so I'm told. Now it is true that we obtain our bananas from a very select breeding stock, so I'm guessing we see very little diversity in what reaches our lips.

The Shrink said...

An extensive article on the continuing state of the banana, can be found here: